P. Naveen Rao, J.
1. Heard Sri K. Raji Reddy, learned counsel for the appellants and learned Government Pleader for Appeals.
2. On the ground that the subject lands were coming within the submergence area of Singoor Irrigation Project, the process to acquire the subject lands in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (for short ‘the Act, 1894’), was set in motion by issuing draft notification and ultimately culminating in passing an Award on 19.02.1990. The subject lands acquired for the said purpose in Jamalpur Village appears to be the hamlet of Itkepally Village which was a Gram Panchayat. The Land Acquisition Officer determined the market value of the acquired lands at Rs.10,000/- per acre. Not satisfied with the said determination of market value, the claimants sought for reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894. Their reference was registered as O.P.No.10 of 2002 in the Court of Senior Civil Judge at Sangareddy. The claimants sought for enhancement of compensation by fixing the land value at Rs.30,000/- per acre for dry lands and Rs.40,000/- per acre for wet lands, with all statutory benefits flowing there from. In support of their claim for enhancement, the claimants relied upon the judgments rendered in O.P.No.213 of 1995 and O.P.No.229 of 2003, marked as Ex.A.1 and Ex.A.2, order dated 19.12.2000 in Appeal No.1213 of 2000 as Ex.A.3 and two sale deeds dated 12.01.1987 and 17.01.1987, marked as Ex.A.4 and Ex.A.5 respectively. They have cited three witnesses to depose on their behalf. On evaluation of the evidence on record, the reference Court did not find merit in the claim to enhance the compensation to Rs.18,500/- for dry lands and Rs.19,500/- for wet lands or to Rs.25,000/- as sought by them, but having found that the compensation determined by the Land Acquisition Officer is not sufficient, the reference Court fixed the market value at Rs.15,000/- per acre, treating the same as just compensation. Not satisfied with the determination of compensation by the reference Court, this appeal is preferred.
3. According to learned counsel for the appellants, the lands acquired are fertile, several commercial crops are raised and yearly yielding per acre was between Rs.6000/- to Rs.8000/-. These factors ought to have been considered to determine higher compensation. His further contention is that the reference Court has not properly evaluated the evidence brought on record in support of the claimants to award higher compensation. He further submits that the appellants are entitled to revision of market rate to Rs.25,000/- as reflected in Ex.A.1 to Ex.A.5 and all the consequential benefits flowing there from.
4. Learned Government Pleader supports the view taken by the reference Court. He further submits that in fact the claimants submitted to the Land Acquisition Officer to grant them Rs.15,000/- per acre only, as market value and they would be satisfied if that amount is fixed and they would not agitate on any other claim. Having restricted their claim to Rs.15,000/- per acre, it is no more open for the appellants to seek enhancement of the compensation and file this appeal. According to learned Government Pleader, this is a vexatious litigation and is liable to be dismissed.
5. The contention of learned Government Pleader that as claimants only demanded Rs.15,000/- per acre, they are not entitled to ask higher market value, is stated to be rejected for two reasons. Firstly, from the material on record and the discussion in the order of the reference Court, it appears that claimants never confined their claim to fix the market value at Rs.15,000/-per acre only. It appears during the course of discussions before the Land Acquisition Officer, they have requested him to determine Rs.15,000/- per acre as market value. But this offer was not accepted by the Land Acquisition Officer who fixed the market value at Rs.10,000/- only. Soon after the Land Acquisition Officer determined the market value of the land in the said manner, they received the compensation under protest and immediately filed applications U/s 18 of the Act, 1894 to enhance the compensation. On reference, before the reference Court they led evidence in support of their claim for higher compensation. Therefore, it cannot be said that they have accepted Rs.15,000/- per acre, as valid compensation and estopped from asking higher compensation. It would have been entirely different aspect if the request of claimants was accepted by the Land Acquisition Officer and he has passed concerned award.
6. Secondly, as held by Hon’ble Supreme Court in Narendra and others Vs State of Uttar Pradesh and others (2017) (8) SCC 426), what is required to be considered by the reference Court or the High Court in a given circumstance, is what is the just compensation payable to owner of the land subjected to compulsory acquisition. While considering the just compensation payable to a land holder, it is not necessary that the Court should confine fixing of compensation based on the compensation actually sought by the claimants and in a given situation, it is permissible for the reference Court or the High Court to enhance the compensation, if the reference Court or the High Court is of the opinion that the claimant is entitled to higher compensation than what was sought by him. In matters of compulsory acquisition of land, the principle of estoppel cannot be applied to off shoot a person’s claim for higher compensation, if such claim is otherwise valid.
7. Coming back to the claim for higher compensation by the appellants, it is seen from the order of the reference Court that on the lands acquired in Itkepally Village for the same purpose, on due consideration of the material on record, the reference Court enhanced the compensation to Rs.19,500/- to wet lands and Rs.18,500/- for dry lands. On the claim of far higher compensation, the reference Court noticed that they have not placed any material to show that their lands are also equally fertile and the yield from the lands owned by them is of the same nature as claimed by the other landowners in whose favour such enhancement was granted. In the absence of sale transactions in Jamalpur Village, the sale transactions of Khan Jamalpur and Itkepally villages were considered but while evaluating the value, the reference Court was not persuaded to agree with the claim of appellants for the reasons assigned therein. Paragraph No.16 of the order of the reference Court reads as under:
“The learned counsel for the claimants argued vehemently that the value for the acquired lands of the claimants to be fixed @ Rs.40,000/- per acre considering the then existing sale transactions and on the basis of capitalization method. Though it is stated in the evidence affidavit of PW.1 that the annual income was Rs.5000/- to Rs.7000/- there is no evidence documentary placed by the claimants in the present case. In the absence of such type of evidence, enhancing the market value in respect of acquired lands of the claimants on the basis of capitalization method cannot be adopted. Coming to the aspect of comparable sales, PW.1 deposed that the acquired lands and the lands covered by Ex.A.4 and A.5 are similar in nature, fertility and value. Of course, PWs.2 and 3 also stated the same in their evidence. As submitted by the learned Government Pleader, six sale deeds taken place during the years 1985 to 1987 and they were considered by the L.A.O., while fixing the market value and that there were no other sales of lands for consideration which were similar in fertility………. The record Ex.B.1 shows that the claimants insisted the Land Acquisition Officer to award Rs.15,000/- per acre in respect of acquired lands. Out of the documents Ex.A.1 and Ex.A.2, only Ex.A.2 document deals with dry lands of Itkepally Village and the value fixed at Rs.18,500/- per acre. As verified from Ex.A.2, much evidence was placed before the Court in respect of yield per acre and calculation was made considering the income per quintal and basing on the same market value of dry B.C. land worked out. In the present case, the statistical information given in the case under Ex.A.2 not placed by the claimants. Except mentioning the yearly income per acre in the evidence affidavit of PW.1 there is no other details available. Just like in a civil suit, in the reference U/s 18 of L.A.Act, it is for the claimants to establish their claim by adducing sufficient and convincing oral and documentary evidence to substantiate their case. Except the evidence of PW.1, there is no other evidence which speaks about the value of the lands of Jamalpur at the time of acquisition and crops that were being raised in those lands and about the yield the cultivators were getting at the relevant point o
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f time. However, the documents could show that the rate per acre by 1987 in respect of acquired land was more than Rs.10,000/- fixed by L.A.O. through documents Ex.A.4 and A.5”. 8. Having arrived at the said conclusion, the reference Court declined to grant the claim of enhancing the compensation. However, having found that the compensation determined by the Land Acquisition Officer is wholly inadequate and by applying guess work, taking into consideration other sale transactions and the location of the land, the reference Court enhanced the market value per acre, to Rs.15,000/-. 9. We do not see any error in the manner in which the evidence was assessed by the reference Court and reasons assigned in support of its decision in not accepting the claim of the appellants to enhance the compensation. 10. The appeal fails and accordingly, the Land Acquisition Appeal Suit is dismissed. Miscellaneous petitions, pending if any, shall stand closed.