Collector can award compensation up to share in acquired land even without inquiry in absence of other claimants: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court has recently held that the Collector can pass compensation awards in favor of persons having shares in the property under acquisition to the extent of their share even if other interested persons claiming shares do not appear before the Collector.

A division bench of Justice RD Dhanuka and Justice MM Sathoy upheld the compensation award for acquisition of certain land for bullet train project under the Just Compensation Act. The award was challenged on the ground that it was passed without the consent of the petitioners.

,We are not interested in accepting submissions by Mr. Joshi, learned counsel for the petitioners that even if one or more persons interested in claiming certain share in the property under acquisition is absent, no award can be made in favor of other persons having interest under Section 23-A of the Just Compensation Act, 2013. Certain share to the extent of their share in the property under acquisition”, the court held.

The petitioners are a family of five who claim to own 12.5 per cent land (writ land) in Bharvada village, Palghar district. They alleged that the respondents (29 persons) illegally filed writs for acquisition under Section 23A of the Just Compensation Act, 2013 behind them. In 2010, the petitioners filed a suit against the respondents for writ of partition and separate possession. In 2013, the Civil Court temporarily restrained the respondents from creating third party interest in the writ land. This interim order was confirmed by the High Court.

In March 2022, the writ lands were acquired for the bullet train project with the consent of the respondents and the compensation amount was disbursed to them. Hence the present writ petition.

The petitioners claimed that no notice under Section 21 of the Act, 2013 was issued to them. Therefore, the distribution of compensation in favor of the respondents is invalid.

The respondents contended that the award was only an offer and was made by the competent authority under the Act, 2013 only in respect of persons interested in appearing before it and giving written consent. However, the applicants did not appear.

The competent authority submitted that it issued notices to all the parties but the petitioners did not appear. The respondents appeared and consented to the acquisition of the writ land. The share of each of the petitioners is 1.55% of the land and the compensation accordingly is Rs. 3,11,560/- each, it added.

The court noted that the petitioners claimed only a small portion of the land.

Section 23A(1) of the Act, 2013 provides that if all the persons interested in the land appearing before the competent authority agree to the award, the authority may pass the award without further enquiry.

Thus, the court did not accept the submission of the petitioners that no award can be made if some interested persons do not appear before the competent authority.

The Court noted that the award under Section 23A is not final and binding on the petitioners. They have a remedy under section 64 of the Fair Compensation Act 2013 to improve the claim.

Further if according to the petitioners the respondents cannot transfer their shares to the acquiring company due to the interim order of the civil court, they can take appropriate action against the respondents before the civil court, the court observed.

,The award made by the Competent Authority under Section 23-A of the Fair Compensation Act, 2013 cannot be set aside by this Court in this Writ Petition as it ignores the disputed question of fact and the title of the petitioners – Judge before the Civil Court. The question whether the petitioners have any right over the writ property is pending before the Civil Court.”, the court added.

Case no. WRIT PETITION NO. 14582 of 2022

Case Name- Dilip Babubhai Shah and Ors. v. Additional Resident Deputy Collector and Ors.

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