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Bomma Vanitha & Others v/s Union of India, rep. by its Secretary Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, New Deli

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    Writ Petition No. 4715 of 2019

    Decided On, 05 March 2020

    At, High Court of Andhra Pradesh


    For the Petitioners: V.V. Satish, Advocate. For the Respondent: Thoom Srinivas, Advocate.

Judgment Text

This writ petition is filed “to declare the action of the respondents in issuing notification dated 03.04.2017 and 30.01.2018 proposing to lay petroleum pipelines through the agricultural lands of the petitioners, as illegal and arbitrary.”

Case of the petitioners is that, 1st petitioner is the owner of the land admeasuring an extent of Ac.2.26 cents in Sy.No.131/2, 2nd petitioner is the owner of agricultural land admeasuring an extent of Ac.1.41 cents in Sy.No.56/1B and the 3rd petitioner is the owner of land admeasuring an extent of Ac.1.13 cents in Sy.No.55/3A, Ac.1.12 in Sy.No.55/3B, Ac.0.75 in Sy.No.56/3 and Ac.2.05 cents in Sy.No.57/1A of Dasullapalem village, Mylavaram Mandal, Krishna District; 1st respondent issued gazette notification dated 03.04.2017 declaring its intention to acquire right of user in the lands notified for the purpose of laying petroleum pipelines under Section 3(1) of the Petroleum & Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 (for short ‘the Act’); in the said notification, the land of the petitioners admeasuring an extent of Ac.0.34 cents in Sy.No.131/2, Ac.0.38 cents in Sy.No.56/1B and an extent of Ac.0.45 cents in Sy.No.55/3A, 55/3B, 56/3 and 57/1A were notified; the notification is completely vague and it does not give clear particulars of the effected portion of lands and it only gives the survey numbers and the extent of land proposed to be acquired, but does not specify the exact location of the land; Section 3(1) of the Act mandates that a brief description of the land shall be notified; the Hon’ble Supreme Court in ‘Competent authority vs. Barangore Jute Mills’ has dealt with similar issue and held ‘mere mentioning of survey number and total extent of land in survey number and the quantum of land required is not sufficient and that the mentioning of exact location is mandatory and that non mentioning of exact portion of land through which right of way is sought does not constitute ‘brief description of land’ and such notifications are vague and that on such vague notification, persons who are effected by the acquisition proposals cannot submit their effective objections’; there is no reference of maps given in the entire notification indicating the exact location of land and no such maps are supplied to the petitioners; pursuant to the notification, petitioners were called for enquiry and they participated in the same, without knowing which portion of their land is being required to be acquired; in view of the vagueness of the notification, the petitioners could not raise effective objections; in spite of raising objections, the 2nd respondent has not passed any order on the same and even assuming that they passed an order, the same was not served on the petitioners; the 2nd respondent without passing any orders on the objections of the petitioners, sent a report and the 1st respondent acted upon the said report and issued notification of declaration under section 6(1) of the Act on 30.01.2018; petitioners are cultivating banana orchid on the said lands and if the pipelines are laid through the middle of the land, the whole land would become non-cultivable. Hence, the writ petition.

When the matter came up for admission on 04.04.2019, an interim direction was passed directing the respondents not to interfere with the agricultural lands of the petitioners for the purpose of laying petroleum pipelines.

Counter-affidavit along with the vacate station petition is filed by the 2nd respondent-Oil Corporation stating inter-alia that according to subsection (1) of Section of the Act, brief description of land including affected land survey numbers and extent of land was clearly mentioned in the notification where the said pipeline is traversing; as per Section 5 of the Act, objections to the notifications, published under Section 3(1), should be submitted to the Competent Authority before the expiry of 21 days, but the petitioners raised their objections on 27.07.2017 and on 01.08.2017; the Competent Authority disposed of the said objections vide proceedings dated 19.09.2017; Section 6(1) notices dated 22.06.2018 were issued to the petitioners, panchanama for the crop and land was conducted on 05.07.2018 and 06.07.2018; actual boundaries of the land being used, for acquiring right of user were clearly earmarked and shown to the petitioners while making the panchanama; location of pipeline route was clearly earmarked and shown to the petitioners; land compensation award dated 25.09.2018 and crop compensation award dated 08.05.2019 were passed before commencing the work, but the petitioners refused to receive the land and crop compensation and prays to vacate the interim orders.

Heard Sri V V Satish, learned counsel appearing for the petitioners, Sri B Krishna Mohan, learned Assistant Solicitor General, appearing for the 1st respondent and Sri G Ram Gopal, learned standing counsel appearing for the 2nd respondent.

In support of his contention, learned counsel for the petitioners relied upon the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in ‘Competent Authority vs. Barangore Jute Factory’, the decision of the Madras High Court in ‘M.Sulochana vs. Union of India’, the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in ‘State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Sanjay Nagayach’ and the decision of the Division Bench of this Court in ‘Dano Vaccines & Biological (P) Ltd. Vs. Government of India’.

In support of his contention, learned standing counsel relied upon the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in ‘P.Chinnanna vs. State of A.P.,’

As seen from the affidavit, even though the first petitioner owns an extent of Ac.2.26 cents in Sy.No.131/2, only an extent of Ac.0.34 cents was notified in the notification. Similarly, even though the 2nd petitioner owns an extent of Ac.1.41 cents in Sy.No.56/1B, only an extent of Ac.0.38 cents was notified and 3rd petitioner owns the land admeasuring an extent of Ac.1.13 cents in Sy.No.55/3A, Ac.1.12 cents in Sy.No.55/3B, Ac.0.75 cents in Sy.No.56/3 and Ac.2.05 cents in Sy.No.57/1A, and only an extent of Ac.0.45 cents in Sy.No.55/3A, 55/3B, 56/3 and 57/1A was notified. It means only a small portion of the land of the petitioners, was notified. Section 3(1) notification was issued on 03.04.2017. According to Section 5(1) of the said Act, any person interested in the land may, within twenty-one days from the date of the notification under sub-section (1) of Section 3, object to the laying of the pipelines under the land. According to sub-section (2) of Section 5, every objection under sub section (1) shall be made to the competent authority in writing and shall set out the grounds thereof, by order whether allow or disallow the objections. As seen from the copy of the objection filed by the 1st petitioner, the same is dated 01.08.2017, which is beyond the period of 21 days specified under Section 5 of the Act. The said objection was rejected on 17.08.2017, wherein, it is stated that the first petitioner’s husband attended the enquiry and he stated that there is a bore well in the subject land and requested not to disturb the same. The second objection, which was raised is, if the pipeline is laid in the subject land, the value of the land will be diminished and requested for higher compensation. Copy of the objection said to have been filed by the 1st petitioner is not filed along with the writ petition. Another objection dated 25.03.2019 was filed by petitioners 2 and 3 just two days before filing of the present writ petition stating that they were not given map with regard to laying of pipeline and that their lands are high yielding. Hence, the same cannot be taken into consideration.

As seen from the documents filed along with the writ petition Form-II notice dated 13.06.2017 in accordance with Rule 3(3) of Section 3 of the Act and Section 3 notice was also served on the petitioners asking the petitioners to submit a letter of objection. Notice under Section 6(1) was issued on 22.06.2018. In the said notice, it is categorically stated that if any claims or objections are there, they can submit their claims and objections within sixty days. The writ petition does not contain any averment with regard to objections filed by the petitioners pursuant to this notice.

In Barangore Jute Factory’s case (supra), notification was issued under National Highways Act, 1956. As seen from the extract of the notification, which is reproduced in the Judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the said notification contains a column for full area of land and one more column for proposed acquisition and the extent. In the full area, column for some of the survey numbers, the land is 10 and 17 acres etc. However, the proposed acquisition is shown as part 2.75 cents and 0.38 cents etc. In those circumstances, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed as follows:

“When only a part of the land out of larger tract of land is sought to be acquired, the question arises which part is going to be acquired. For instance, in the first table full area of land at Sl.No.3 is Ac.17.00 as per column 5 and column 7 indicates that only a part of the said 17 acres is being acquired and as per column 8, the part which is sought to be acquired is 2.7500 acres. This means out of 17 acres only 2.7500 acres is being acquired. The question will arise as to which side this part which is sought to be acquired is falling, it could be anywhere on the northern, southern, western, eastern sides or in the centre. How one to know which part is is under acquisition? Similar position emerges with reference to other serial numbers where only part of larger chunks of land is being acquired? The absence of information as to which part of the land is being acquired makes the description insufficient, rather vague. The owners are not in a position to identify the land under acquisition. It also renders it impossible to make the claim regarding compensation for the land under acquisition because it is a matter of common knowledge that in bigger tracts of land, certain areas on a particular side are more valuable than the others. The absence of proper description of land makes it impossible to file objection against acquisition.”

Under those circumstances, it was held that the notification is not in accordance with law. Further, in that case, writ petitions have pleaded that there was no plan. Replies are vague and by way of rolled up answers. It was observed that ‘it is clear from the judgment of the High Court that no plan was produced before it. The absence of any reference to a plan in the impugned notification and in fact non availability of any plan linked to the notification, fortifies the argument that the description of the land under acquisition in the impugned notification fails to meet the legal requirement of a brief description of the land, which renders the notification invalid.’ Ultimately, it was held that ‘quashing of impugned notification at this stage will give rise to several difficulties and practical problems and better course will be to compensate the land owners appropriately’.

In the present case on hand, there is no such pleading in the objections which they filed before the Competent Authority. As seen from the facts of the present case, no such plea of non availability of plan was taken by the petitioners, when they filed their objections. Only small extent of land is notified and they are not part of huge extent of land as in the case of Barangore Jute Factory’s case (supra). Further no plea has been taken by the petitioners in the writ affidavit or in their objections that one particular part of the land, out of the total land notified is more fertile or a part of the land is put to different use etc. The only objection is that the subject land has got mango and guava orchids. As the petitioners never raised any doubt with regard to which portion or extent is being acquired, it appears that they never had any doubt with regard to portion of the land being acquired. It is not their case that there is no map available at all. The writ petition itself is filed on 30.04.2019, whereas the land award was passed on 25.09.2018 and crop compensation award was passed on 08.05.2019.

In M.Sulochana’ case (supra), the contention of the petitioners in those batch of writ petitions is that the notification is bereft of details, and in some cases entire extent of land is shown and there are no details with regard to the actual extent of land and its path through which the pipeline is likely to be laid. In those circumstances, the Corporation was directed to furnish a detailed plan relating to the laying of the pipeline to enable the petitioners to give effective objections.

In Sanjay Nagayach’s case (supra), the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that ratio decidendi has the force of law and is binding on all statutory authorities when they deal with similar issues.

In Dano Vaccines & Biological (P) Ltd.,’s case (supra), wherein the Division Bench of this Court following the judgment in Barangore Jute Factory’s case (supra), dismissed the writ petition on the facts of that particular case.

In P.Chinnanna’s case (supra) relied on by the learned standi

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ng counsel for the Corporation, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that ‘in fact, in relation to acquisition proceedings involving acquisition of land for public purposes, the court concerned must be averse to entertain writ petition involving the challenge to such acquisition where there is avoidable delay or laches since such acquisition, if set aside, would not only involve enormous loss of public money but also cause undue delay in carrying out projects meant for general public good’. Even in the present case, the objections under Section 5 of the Act were filed by the 1st petitioner on 01.08.2017 much beyond the period of 21 days as stipulated under the Act, whereas petitioners 2 and 3 filed their objections on 25.03.2019, just before filing of the writ petition and after awards have been passed on 25.09.2018/08.05.2019. Even in the objection which is filed by the 1st petitioner on 01.08.2017, the only objection raised is to avoid lying of pipeline through her land and protect the growing crop, which has been considered and rejected by the respondents. At no point of time, petitioners have raised any objection with regard to identify of the property, which is sought to be acquired. In the facts and circumstances of the case, I see no ground to interfere with the notification and the writ petition fails, and is accordingly, dismissed. No order as to costs. Miscellaneous petitions, if any, pending in the writ petition shall stand closed.