w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n



Appasani Babu Rao v/s The Union of India, rep. by its Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Chemicals, New Delhi & Others


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    W.A. No. 371 of 2020

    Decided On, 25 February 2021

    At, High Court of Andhra Pradesh

    By, THE HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. ARUP KUMAR GOSWAMI & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE C. PRAVEEN KUMAR

    For the Appellant: Vikaram Pooserla, Advocate. For the Respondents: R2, Dominic Fernandes, Advocate.



Judgment Text

C. Praveen Kumar, J.1. Assailing the Order, dated 22.10.2020, passed in W.P.No.682 of 2019, the present Writ Appeal is filed under Clause 15 of Letters Patent.2. The Government of India undertook transportation of petroleum products from Paradeep in the State of Orissa to Hyderabad through State of Andhra Pradesh, vide project styled as ‘Paradeep-Hyderabad Pipeline Project’ [here-in-after referred to as ‘Project’].3. In the process of laying the pipelines, there arose necessity to acquire the right of user in respect of petitioners’ land under the provisions of Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 [here-in-after referred to as ‘PMP Act’]. Pursuant thereto, a Notification, dated 06.09.2017, came to be issued under Section 3(1) of PMP Act, covering different extents of lands in villages of Gaddamanugu, Cheruvumadhavram, Sunnampadu, Loya, Kavuluru, Munagapadu and Chevuturu in G.Konduru Mandal, Krishna District. It is averred in the affidavit filed, that originally the pipeline alignment was going in a straight line between Konduru Village and Indian Oil Corporation Limited terminal at Kowluru Village, but, however, the same was changed and another Notification was also issued in that regard.4. The Notification in respect of land, which is subject matter of Writ Petition, came to be issued on 04.01.2018 under Section 5 (2) of the PMP Act, 1962 and later a declaration under Section 6 (1) on 11.04.2018. It is said that, without considering the objections of the Writ Petitioners, an Order came to be passed on 04.01.2018 in terms of Section 5 (2) of PMP Act, 1962 and, thereafter, the 2nd Respondent forwarded a report to the Central Government as required under Section 6 (1) of PMP Act, 1962. The Central Government issued a declaration under Section 6(1) of the PMP Act vide Gazette Notification No. 637, dated 11.04.2018, declaring acquisition of right of user in respect of lands of the Petitioner i.e., the Appellant herein. Challenging the said Notification issued, a Writ Petition was filed.5. Initially, an interim order was passed on 29.01.2019, which was subsequently extended vide Orders dated 21.11.2019 and 02.01.2020. After filing of counters along with vacate stay applications, a learned Single Judge of this Court, after referring to the provisions of the PMP Act and the judgments of the Apex Court, in this regard, disposed of the Writ Petition, holding as under:a) The petitioners are entitled to compensation to be determined under Section 10(4) of the PMP Act, however, on the market value of the lands existing as on the date of filing of the writ petitions.b) The petitioners who filed objections before the competent authority alone are entitled to receive the compensation as indicated above.c) The petitioners who have already received compensation during the pendency of the writ petitions are not entitled to compensation as indicated in item-(a).d) Any grievances with regard to determination of compensation as indicated in item-(a) may be agitated before the competent District Court under Section 10 (2) of the PMP Act.e) The compensation as indicated in item-(a) shall be paid within six (6) weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this Court.16. Accordingly, the writ petitions are partly allowed with the directions as indicated above, with costs of Rs.10,000/- (Rupees ten thousand only) in each writ petition, to be borne by respondent No.2.6. Challenging the same, present Writ Appeal No. 371 of 2020 was filed by the Writ Petitioner; while Writ Petition No. 420 of 2020 came to be filed by the Respondents therein. However, the said Writ Appeal No. 420 of 2020 was dismissed as withdrawn.7. Mr. Vedula Venkata Ramana, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the Appellant would submit that the findings of the learned Single Judge, in arriving at the conclusion referred to above are illegal, improper and incorrect. In other words, the main plea of the learned Senior Counsel is that the facts in Nareshbhai Bhagubhai v. Union of India (2019) 15 SCC 1), which was relied upon by the learned Single Judge, does not apply to the case on hand. He would submit that, in the said case, the statement made by the learned Senior Counsel after consulting his clients, was taken into consideration while awarding compensation. According to him, having regard to the nature of the project, a concession was made by the learned Senior Counsel, which lead to passing of an Order moulding the relief by granting compensation to the appellants to be assessed under Section 20-G of the Railways Act, 1989. But, according to him, in the instant case, there being no concession and in view of the finding of the learned Single Judge that the procedure as required under law was not followed, the order under challenge warrants interference.8. On the other hand, Mr. S. Niranjan Reddy, learned Senior Counsel appearing for Mr. Dominic Fernandes submits, that it is a prestigious project taken up by the Union of India, for supply of gas through pipeline from Paradeep in Orissa to Hyderabad. According to him, the entire pipeline is to an extent of 1212 kilometers running from Paradeep to Hyderabad and only 380 meters of pipeline which is under dispute is to be laid. According to him, it is sub-terrain, which does not prevent the Appellant from using the surface area over the place where the pipeline is laid. On instructions he would submit that, after the judgment of the learned Single Judge and before filing of Writ Appeal, the pipeline in the disputed area has also been laid. He further submits that, in view of the findings of the learned Single Judge, the Appellant would get more amount of compensation than what he would have got, had the value prevailing as on the date of notification is taken for calculating the compensation.9. The same is strongly refuted by Sri. Vedula Venkataramana contending, that it is not the question of compensation that is involved in the case, but, the procedure that is to be followed while acquiring land. Referring to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, he would submit that as the provisions of the PMP Act are almost identical to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, non-consideration of the objections of the land owners is fatal and the consequential declarations made under Section 6 of the Act is liable to be set aside.10. Keeping in view the submissions made by the learned Counsel for the Appellant and the learned Counsel for the Respondent, it is now to be seen whether the Writ Appellant is entitled for the relief claimed?11. As seen from the Order impugned, the learned Single Judge while dealing with Point No. 4 raised therein, namely, as to whether there was any compliance of Section 6 of PMP Act, held as under:“Therefore, the Declaration under Section 6(1) of the PMP Act on the basis of report without due consideration of the objections objectively by the competent authority vitiates the whole proceedings.The point is answered accordingly and the contentions of the learned counsel for the petitioners in this regard are upheld.”12. In view of the above findings, the learned Senior Counsel submits that the entire proceedings have to be quashed and the same has to be started from the stage of Section 6, if acquisition is to be made.13. It is no doubt true that the learned Single Judge gave a finding that the authorities under the Act failed to consider the objections submitted by the Writ Petitioner before making a declaration under Section 6(1) of the Act, but, however, relied upon a judgment of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Nareshbhai Bhagubhai case [supra] and ordered payment of compensation. In order to appreciate the same, it would be useful to refer to the said judgment.14. The issue before the Apex Court in Nareshbhai Bhagubhai case [supra] was that, in the absence of an Order passed on the objections under Section 20-D, should the consequential steps be invalidated?15. It was also a case where out of 131 kilometers of land, stretch of about 125 kilometers of land was acquired and the balance 6 kilometers was under dispute. It was also brought to the notice of the court by the respondents therein i.e., Union of India, that pre-construction activity and earth work has been completed on most parts of the stretch and most of the bridges are either in progress, or have already been completed. After obtaining necessary instructions, the Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioners therein, submitted that his clients would be satisfied if they were granted compensation by awarding the current rate for acquisition of land.16. Having regard to the above, and as no mala fides are alleged against the respondents in the acquisition proceedings, held that larger public purpose of a railway project would not be served if the notification under Section 20-A is quashed and the public purpose of the acquisition is the construction and operation of a Special Railway Project. The court deemed it to balance the right of the Appellants on the one hand, and the larger public purpose on the other, by compensating the appellants for the right they have been deprived of.17. It would be appropriate to extract paras 34, 35 and 37 of the said Judgment, which are as under:“34. The issue which remains to be decided is that in the absence of an order passed on the objections under Section 20-D, should the consequential steps be invalidated. We find that the challenge before this Court has been made by the Appellants with respect to a stretch of land admeasuring approximately 6 km, out of the total stretch of 131 km. The remaining stretch of land comprising of 125 km has been acquired, and stands vested in the Government. The Respondents have stated on Affidavit that pre-construction activity and earth work has been completed on most parts of the stretch. Furthermore, most of the bridges are either in progress, or have already been completed.35. The Senior Counsel representing the appellants in all the present civil appeals, after taking instructions from his clients, submitted that since the land was being acquired for a public utility project, his clients would be satisfied if they were granted compensation by awarding the current rate for acquisition of land. Admittedly, no mala fides have been alleged by the appellants against the respondents in the acquisition proceedings. The larger public purpose of a railway project would not be served if the notification under Section 20-A is quashed. The public purpose of the acquisition is the construction and operation of a Special Railway Project viz. the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor in District Surat, Gujarat. In these extraordinary circumstances, we deem it fit to balance the right of the Appellants on the one hand, and the larger public purpose on the other, by compensating the appellants for the right they have been deprived of. The interests of justice persuade us to adopt this course of action.37. In the present case, the relief is being moulded by granting compensation to the appellants, to be assessed under Section 20-G of the said Act as per the current market value of the land. The competent authority is directed to compute the amount of compensation on the basis of the current market value of the land, which may be determined with reference to Section 20-G(2) of the Act.”18. From the judgment referred to above, it is clear that while balancing larger public purpose and the rights of the appellants therein, the court struck a balance and after taking into consideration the concessions made by the learned Senior Counsel, awarded compensation.19. In Savitri Devi v. State of U.P. & Ors., (2015) 7 SCC 21)the Apex Court held as under:“Thus, we have a scenario where, on the one hand, invocation of urgency provisions under Section 17 of the Act and dispensing with the right to file objection under Section 5A of the Act, is found to be illegal. On the other hand, we have a situation where because of delay in challenging these acquisitions by the land owners, developments have taken in these villages and in most of the cases, third party rights have been created. Faced with this situation, the High Court going by the spirit behind the judgment of this Court in Bondu Ramaswamy and Others (supra) came out with the solution which is equitable to both sides. We are, thus, of the view that the High Court considered the ground realities of the matter and arrived at a more practical and workable solution by adequately compensating the land owners in the form of compensation as well as allotment of developed Abadi land at a higher rate i.e. 10% of the land acquired of each of the land owners against the eligibility and to the policy to the extent of 5% and 6% of Noida and Greater Noida land respectively.”20. The said judgment was also referred to in Nareshbhai Bhagubhai case [supra]. In the said case, there was no concession by any of the counsel. Going by the spirit of the judgment in Bondu Ramaswamy Vs. Bangalore Development Authority (2010 (7) SCC 129), and taking into consideration the ground realities of the matter, the Apex Court ar

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rived at a more practical and workable solution by adequately compensating the land owners in the form of compensation and allotment of developed Abadi land, at a higher rate i.e. 10% of the land acquired to each of the land owners against their eligibility.21. Therefore, it is quite clear that even in the absence of any concession by any of the parties, but, having regard to the larger public purpose and in a given fact situation, compensation can be directed to be paid to the aggrieved persons.22. As stated earlier, in the instant case, the total pipeline which was to be laid from Paradeep in Orissa State to Hyderabad is about 1212 kilometers. The said pipeline is a subterrain one and the dispute is with regard to laying of 380 meters only. It is also brought to the notice of the court that after the disposal of writ petition, the pipeline was laid even in respect of the disputed area. For the aforesaid reasons and in view of the judgments referred to above, the order awarding compensation under Section 10 (4) of PMP Act, on the market value of lands existing as on the date of filing of writ petition warrants no interference.23. In view of the above findings, it is not necessary for us to go into the issue as to whether the entire proceedings get vitiated for non-compliance of the provisions of the Act.24. Accordingly, the Writ Appeal is dismissed. No order as to costs.25. All the pending miscellaneous applications; if any, are closed.
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