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



Merugu Narsaiah @ Narsimha Reddy & Others v/s The State of Telangana rep. by its Principal Secretary, Revenue Department (Land Acquisition), Hyderabad & Others


    Writ Petition Nos. 37769 of 2017, 16344 of 2019, 21740 of 2019 & 26575 of 2019

    Decided On, 03 June 2020

    At, High Court of for the State of Telangana

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M.S. RAMACHANDRA RAO & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE K. LAKSHMAN

    For the Petitioners: B. Rachna Reddy, Advocate. For the Respondents: Advocate General, G.P. for Land Acquisition and G.P. for Irrigation.



Judgment Text


Common Order:(M.S. Ramachandra Rao, J.

1. In these Writ Petitions filed in 2017 and 2019, the issues raised relate to (a) payment of lawful compensation under the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (for short, ‘the Act 30 of 2013’) to the petitioners for depriving them of their agricultural lands and structures thereon and (b) also of compensation in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement under Section 31-A introduced in the Act by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Telangana Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 21 of 2017).

2. The petitioners in W.P.No.37769 of 2017, W.P.No.16344 of 2019 and W.P.No.21740 of 2019 are small farmers owning small extents of land in Allipur Village, Chinna Kondur Mandal, Siddipet District while the petitioners in W.P.No.26575 of 2019 are small farmers owning small extent of land in Ananthagiri Village, Ellanthakunta Mandal, Rajanna Siricilla District who were eking out their livelihood doing agriculture.

3. The State of Telangana had initiated the Kaleswaram Irrigation Project under which it proposed to construct many reservoirs down stream including the Ananthagiri Sagar Reservoir.

4. The petitioners’ lands were required by the State/respondents for purpose of Anatagirisagar reservoir, which is also a component of the Kaleaswaram irrigation project.

5. As part of this scheme, the water from the river Godavari would be transported for drinking and agricultural purposes through a series of lifts for storage and distribution of water from a place called Medigadda situated in Jayashankar Bhupalpally District; and the said project envisages construction of reservoirs in Siddipet District such as Ananthagiri Reservoir (3.5 TMC), Ranganayakasagar Reservoir (3 TMC), Sri Komaravelli Mallanna Sagar Reservoir (50 TMC) and Kondapochamma Sagar Reservoir (15 TMC).

6. It is not in dispute that under the Kaleswaram Irrigation project, the Godavari River water would flow from Medigadda to Kondapochammasagar through Mid-Manair, Anantagirisagar and Ranganayaka sagar reservoirs.

7. The water would be lifted from Medigadda (the Zero point) where the Full Reservoir Level (FRL) is 100 m to Kondapochammasagar whose FRL is 618m i.e., the water is lifted 518 m vertically in a phased manner – reservoir after reservoir.

8. Water from these reservoirs would be utilized in the said district and would also be supplied to more than 9 neighboring districts for agriculture purpose, besides supply of drinking water to the State Capital of Hyderabad. It is prestigious project undoubtedly conceived in public interest.

9. As part of the above scheme, the Executive Engineer, Irrigation and CAD Department, Kaleswaram Project Construction Division 1 of Siddipet submitted requisition proposal for procurement/acquisition of an extent of Ac.890 at Allipur Village for the purpose of construction of Ananthagirisagar Reservoir. A large extent of land in Ananathgiri Village Ellanthakunta Mandal, Rajanna Siricilla District including the lands belonging to the petitioners in WP.No.26575 of 2019 was also to be acquired for this reservoir.

10. According to the respondents, procurement of this large extent of land was initiated under the provisions of G.O.Ms.No.123, Revenue (JA&LA) Department, dt.30.07.2015.

11. This G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 contemplates a consensual sale of lands by land owners to the State for a consideration to be voluntarily agreed by the land owner and the Procurement Agency. It’s contents will be discussed more in detail later in this order.

12. Counsel for the petitioners contended that petitioners were forcibly evicted from their lands and houses in the middle of the night on 20.04.2020 and that on 24.4.2020, Ananthagirisagar reservoir in Ellanthakunta Mandal of Rajanna Sircilla District was inaugurated and the Godavari water was released from it to Ranaganayaka sagar reservoir which submerged their lands.

13. On 29.5.2020, water was released into Kodapochamma Sagar reservoir also by switching on the pumps at Markook pump house by the Hon’ble Chief Minister.

Contentions of petitioners:

14. Petitioners in all these Writ Petitions assert that the respondents resorted to coercive tactics and forced them to sign ‘consent awards’ offering arbitrary price for their lands which had no bearing to the registration or the market value of the lands in the said villages in March, 2016 and that they did not give willingness to sell their land voluntarily as per the procedure prescribed in the G.O.Ms.No.123. They contend that for similar lands abutting their lands in Lingareddypally Village, the State Government paid compensation of Rs.13,00,000/- per acre in May, 2017 but the petitioners were discriminated against and paid a lump sum amount of only about Rs.6,50,000/- per acre.

15. The petitioners in W.P.No.37769 of 2017 and W.P.No.21740 of 2019 further contend that as per the allegedly consensual award, there is no scope separately for Rehabilitation and Resettlement as provided in Section 31 and Schedules II and III of the Act 30 of 2013 and they were deprived of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement benefits which they are entitled to under the said Act and that this violates Article 14 and 300A of the Constitution of India, Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and Act 30 of 2013. They also contend that even the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Telangana Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 21 of 2017) amending Act 30 of 2013 and adding Section 31A to Act 30 of 2013 with retrospective effect from 01.01.2014 entitles the petitioners to get a lump sum amount, notwithstanding anything contained in the said Act, in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement whenever land is to be acquired for irrigation projects; and that petitioners have been denied the benefit thereunder and this violates Article 14 and Article 300A of the Constitution of India.

16. The petitioners in W.P.No.16344 of 2019 also assert that there were many structures on their lands for which there was no compensation granted and their representations made to the Pranahita Chevella Deputy Collector dt.22.08.2016, 31.05.2016, 20.02.2018, 15.03.2019 were ignored.

17. The petitioners in W.P.No.26575 of 2019 reiterate the contentions raised by the petitioners in W.P.No.37769 of 2017 with regard to denial of additional lump sum amounts for rehabilitation and resettlement and also the contention of the petitioners in W.P.No.16344 of 2019 about denial of compensation for structures.

18. It is the grievance of all the petitioners that they were coerced into signing consent awards by the respondents under G.O.Ms.No.123, Revenue (JA&LA) Department dt.30.07.2015 and they were forcibly dispossessed of their lands and structures and meager compensation was granted to them contrary to the Act 30 of 2013 and this violates Articles 14 and 300-A of the Constitution of India. They seek direction to the respondents to forthwith initiate proceedings under Act 30 of 2013 for payment of compensation and for Resettlement and Rehabilitation as mandated under the Act 30 of 2013.

19. Counsel for petitioners relied upon an interim order dt.05.01.2017 passed by a Division Bench of this Court in Kondakandla Yadaiah and others Vs. State of Telangana and others (2018 (1) ALD 69 (DB) in W.P.M.P.No.30910 of 2016 in W.P.No.25036 of 2016 and batch. In the said interim order the said Division Bench held that the State Government shall not purchase lands under G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 for public purpose of construction of irrigation projects from 05.01.2017, the date when the said interim order was passed. In the said interim order, the Division Bench observed that if a person is not willing to part with his property, the State would not resort to G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 to purchase his land, but only take recourse to the provisions of the Act 30 of 2013. It also observed that the said G.O. cannot be applied to deprive the statutory rights of other categories of persons such as agricultural labourers, village artisans, scheduled tribes, forest dwellers, assignees, etc., who are not land owners but are dependent upon it for their survival. It held that contracts being made by the State Government under G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 (sale deeds executed in its favour by land owners) violate the statutory rights of affected families, other than land owners, which are protected by Act 30 of 2013 and would violate Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. It left open the question whether such of these contracts which are already made are void ab initio to be decided at the final hearing of the writ petitions.

The case of the respondents

20. Counter affidavits were filed on 05.02.2020 only in W.P.No.37769 of 2017 and W.P.No.16344 of 2019.

21. It is the case of the respondents that Notification No.G3/1990/2016 dt.29.05.2016 was issued by the Tahsildar, Chinna Koduru, the Special Deputy Collector-cum-Land Acquisition Officer, U-III, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, APCSSP and Revenue Officer, Siddipet and Joint Collector, Medak District, District Collector, Medak at Sangareddy stating that interested owners of lands in Allipur Village, Chinna Koduru Mandal had entered into agreement in the name of the Land Acquisition Agency for selling their land and assets voluntarily on the basis of the agreement made by the Committee referred to above and inviting third parties to file objections to the proposed sale in favour of the Procurement Agency.

22. According to the respondents, land compensation at Rs.6,00,000/- per acre was mutually agreed and was paid to the petitioners along with other land owners of the villages referred to above.

23. They claim that the consideration for sale of land was agreed to by the individual land owners and the Procuring Agency before the Committee and the said rate is more beneficial than the land compensation allowed under Act 30 of 2013.

24. No counter affidavit was filed by the respondents in WP.No. 26575 of 2019 in which case the petitioners are small farmers owning small extent of land in Ananthagiri Village, Ellanthakunta Mandal, Rajanna Siricilla District.

The events after filing of the writ petitions

25. On 5.2.2020, Counter affidavits were filed by the respondents in WP.No.37769 of 2017 and WP.No.16344 of 2019.

26. No counter affidavits have been filed in WP.No.21740 of 23019 and WP.No.26575 of 2019 though considerable time had elapsed since their filing in this Court.

27. COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted life and also the working of the Courts including the High Court since March 2020.

The initial roster permitting taking up of only urgent matters

28. After the COVID – 19 pandemic set in, there was a lockdown announced for 21 days from 24.03.2020, and initially a decision was taken by the High court vide ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.27.03.2020 suspending the regular Judicial work till 14.4.2020 and decided that only dire urgent cases namely bail applications, stay matters and dire urgent fresh admission matters such as PILs will be taken up.

(Annexure – I to this order)

The notification of the High Court dt.13.4.2020

29. Vide Roc.No.394/SO/2020 dt.13.4.2020, the High Court notified that the suspension of Judicial work would stand extended from 14.4.2020 till 30.4.2020, (Annexure – II to this order), and that it will take up dire urgent cases as mentioned in the Circular dt.27.03.2020 (Annexure-I).

The change in the Roster from 4.5.2020 permitting all matters to be taken up by video conferencing

30. Vide ROC.No.1202/SO/2019 dt.29.04.2020, the High Court of Telangana notified that the ‘Summer Vacation’ for the year 2020 was also cancelled by the Full Court.

(Annexure – III to this order)

31. On 04.05.2020, there was a change in the Roster pursuant to the appointment of a new Judge to the High Court of Telangana Justice Sri B. Vijaysen Reddy, but the hearing of all matters, and not only urgent cases, was permitted to be done by video-conferencing.

(Annexure – IV to this order)

32. Even on 07.05.2020, a Notification ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.07.05.2020 was issued by the High Court specifically mentioning that it would continue to take up Final Hearing, pending Admissions, and other matters as decided by the respective Judges as per the Roster, in addition to extreme urgent matters.

(Annexure – V to this order)

33. It is not denied by the learned Advocate General that at the request of the State/respondents, these matters were listed with other connected matters by the Division Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice on 17.4.2020 as the State wanted the Anantagiri sagar Reservoir to be inaugurated by releasing of water into the petitioners’ lands. (As already stated above, such inauguration of Anathagirisagar reservoir took place on 24.4.2020, after Covid-19 pandemic started and in the midst of a lock down).

34. The Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice, in view of the request of the learned Advocate General, (even though as per the notification ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.13.4.2020 the High Court had extended the suspension of Judicial work of the High Court and stated that dire urgent cases only would be taken up by it) obviously sensing the urgency in the matter, and to ensure that adequate and just compensation is also paid to the petitioners before water is released into their lands for the Anathagirisagar Reservoir, directed these matters to be listed and they were listed on 17.4.2020.

35. But, the counsel for the petitioners sought time as the matters were suddenly listed without prior notice and so the Division Bench adjourned these matters to 11.5.2020.

36. Importantly, even in the one month period between 17.4.2020 and 11.5.2020, the respondents did not choose to file counter affidavits in W.P.No.21740 of 2019 and W.P.No.26575 of 2019.

The events between 12.5.2020 and 14.5.2020

37. As the Division Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice did not sit on 11.05.2020 and thereafter till 17.05.2020, on 12.05.2020, the above matters were listed before this Bench along with the connected matters, as this Bench was the only Division Bench sitting during the week from 11.05.2020 to 15.05.2020.

(Roster dt.12.05.2020 - Annexure – VI to this order)

38. On 12.05.2020, before this Division Bench, the learned Advocate-General for the State of Telangana sought time to argue the matter stating that he had not read the files and was not in a position to submit arguments.

39. While we were surprised at such a representation of the learned Advocate-General, to avoid any embarrassment to him, and to accommodate him, his request was accepted, and to enable him toprepare and make submissions, these matters were adjourned to 13.05.2020.

40. On 13.05.2020, arguments of counsel for the petitioners were heard. After the submissions of the counsel for the petitioners were heard, the learned Advocate General stated that he would make submissions on 14.05.2020.

The filing of the Memo dt.14.5.2020 by the Learned Advocate General on 14.5.2020

41. But without doing so, he filed a Memo on 14.05.2020 at 10:15 a.m., just before the Court would come into session through videoconferencing at 10:30 a.m., running into eleven (11) paragraphs and 5 pages seeking adjournment of these four matters and also the connected matters i.e., W.P.No.5415 of 2020, 2188 of 2020, 2389 of 2020, 3420 of 2019, 9146 of 2019, 25664 of 2019 and 6556 of 2020 (which were not listed on 14.05.2020 by this Bench but which had been listed along with these matters on 12.05.2020) till this Court is reopened for regular functioning after pandemic and lockdown situation.

42. We shall first consider this Memo and point out why we rejected it and his submissions contained in it.

Consideration by the Court of Memo dt.14.05.2020 of the learned Advocate-General representing the respondents Re: Para Nos.1, 2 and 3 of the Memo

43. In the 1st paragraph in the Memo, it is contended that it was being filed stating the difficulties in proceeding with the final hearing of these cases at that juncture and requesting for adjourning these Writ Petitions for final hearing. In the last paragraph of the Memo he wanted the final hearing to happen after pandemic ends.

44. In the 2nd paragraph of the Memo, it is contended that these matters were listed before the earlier Division Bench consisting of the Hon’ble Hon’ble Chief Justice and Justice Abhishek Reddy for the limited purpose of considering modification of an earlier interim order which directs not to release the water into the subject lands which were acquired for the purpose of Kaleswaram Irrigation Project; that the Writ Petitions were taken up and after hearing both the counsel for the parties, in view of the urgency of releasing the water into the project, the said Division Bench modified the earlier interim order and directed the State to release water.

45. He refers in this paragraph to an agreement between both sides whereunder the benefits offered by the respondents were agreed to be received by the petitioners.

46. He contends in para 3 that though these were paid, the petitioners are still litigating the mater and commenced arguments before this bench on 13.5.2020.

47. We reject these contentions for the following reasons :

(A) Firstly, the alleged agreement as stated by the Learned Advocate General was not recorded on the docket of these 4 writ petitions by the earlier Division bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice. No doubt the order dt.1.5.2020 in WP.No.35059 of 2020, W.P.No.7549 of 2019, WP.No.10293 of 2019 and WP.No. 11714 of 2019, refers to some such agreement. (Annexure – VII to this order). Even so, obviously any such order would apply only to the persons who are parties to it. It is not the case of the learned Advocate General that there is any such order covering the parties to these Writ petitions as well. So the petitioners are well within their rights to argue the matters when they were listed before this Bench.

(B) If the Writ Petitions were to be posted for final hearing in the normal course, as is suggested by the learned Advocate-General, such final hearing, keeping in mind the present pendency of more than two lakh cases and the Bench strength of the High Court of a mere 14 Judges as against a sanctioned strength of 24, would happen probably only after 10 years from now, by which time the petitioners’ lives would be destroyed.

Also, it is now not clear when the pandemic will end and so he cannot say that unless the pandemic ends, the matters can’t be heard.

(C) Further, in our opinion, issues relating to adequate payment of compensation to land losers and their Rehabilitation and Resettlement cannot be postponed in the manner suggested by the Advocate-General.

We would like to quote Section 38 of Act 30 of 2013 which states :

“38. Power to take possession of land to be acquired: (1) The Collector shall take possession of land after ensuring that full payment of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements are paid or tendered to the entitled persons within a period of three months for the compensation and a period of six months for the monetary part of rehabilitation and resettlements entitlements listed in the Second Schedule commencing from the date of the award made under section 30:

Provided that the components of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Package in the Second and Third Schedules that relate to infrastructural entitlements shall be provided within a period of eighteen months from the date of the award:

Provided further that in case of acquisition of land for irrigation or hydel project, being a public purpose, the rehabilitation and resettlement shall be completed six months prior to submergence of the lands acquired.

(2) The Collector shall be responsible for ensuring that the rehabilitation and resettlement process is completed in all its aspects before displacing the affected families.”

When,

(a) the very purpose of the Act 30 of 2013 is to lessen the hardship of owners of land;

(b) Section 38 in fact mandates that the land owner can only be dispossessed by the Collector after ensuring full payment of compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements are paid or tendered to the entitled persons within a period of three months for the compensation and a period of six months for the monetary part of rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements listed in the 2nd Schedule to the Act;

(c) the 2nd proviso to Section 38 states that in case of acquisition of land for irrigation or hydel project, the rehabilitation and resettlement shall be completed six months prior to submergence of the lands acquired; and

(d) it is admitted in para no.2 of the Memo that the previous Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice had permitted the State to release water into the subject lands which were acquired for the purpose of Kaleswaram Lift Irrigation Project (Order dt.01.05.2020 in W.P.No.35059 of 2017, 7549, 10393 and 11714 of 2019) (the Anatagirisagar reservoir was inaugurated on 24.4.2020 itself) , and consequently the lands of the petitioners would be submerged and result in their dispossession,

the learned Advocate-General cannot contend that this Bench should ignore the mandate of the statute contained in the 2nd proviso to Section 38, that it should also ignore the timelines specified in it including the timeline for rehabilitation and resettlement mentioned in the 2nd proviso to ensure Rehabilitation and resettlement 6 months before submergence of the lands acquired and simply adjourn the matter to an unknown future date.

In fact it is the above considerations which appear to have persuaded the Bench presided by the Hon’ble Chief Justice, to treat these matters too as urgent and list them on 17.4.2020 (though as per the High Court notification ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.13.4.2020 valid till 30.4.2020, only dire urgent matters were to be taken up) so that the State can advance submissions and the matters can be disposed of before the release of water by the inauguration of the Ananthasagar Reservoir and the Kondapochammasagar Reservoir.

We may point out that the learned Advocate General not only did not object to the listing of these matters on 17.4.2020 for hearing before the Division bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice, though there was a lockdown in force, but in fact he, on behalf of the respondents, wanted the listing of the matters urgently for disposal before the inauguration of the Anantagirsagar Reservoir.

The subsequent notifications ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.11.05.2020 and ROC.No.394/SO/2020 dt.14.05.2020, also stated that only extreme urgent matters would be taken up for hearing instead of all cases, and it was clarified that it was for the Judges who were sitting thereafter (including the Judges comprising this Bench) to decide as per the Roster.

Once the Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice considered these matters were urgent enough for listing on 17.4.2020 and later on 11.5.2020 for hearing, and the Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice did not sit from 11.05.2020 till 17.05.2020, and these matters were listed before the instant Bench, which was the only Division Bench in Session at that time, merely because there is a change in the roster, the learned Advocate-General cannot contend that suddenly the ‘urgency’ ceased to exist.

(D) It is not the case of the State that the mandate of law contained in Section 38 was modified by Amendment Act, 21 of 2017 amending Act 30 of 2013 as regards the State of Telangana, and that it can pay the compensation or Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements whenever it pleases even if the land owners are dispossessed by it by releasing of water into the subject lands of the petitioners.

(E) If according to the learned Advocate-General there was in April,2020 urgency of releasing the water into the Anantagiri sagar reservoir project by it’s inauguration, which would result in submergence of the lands of the petitioners, there is automatically a corresponding urgency to settle the issues of payment of compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements to the petitioners / land owners before their dispossession by submergence of their lands. He cannot contend that only the release of water into the project is urgent and not the issues relating to payment of compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements to the petitioners / land owners.

(F) We may also point out that the Docket orders in these cases nowhere show that when the earlier Division Bench posted these matters to 17.04.2020 and later to 11.05.2020, it did so only for modification of earlier interim orders prohibiting release of water, as is contended by the learned Advocate General. In fact in these cases, there were no prior interim orders of such nature.

Therefore, no exception can be taken by the respondents for this Bench hearing the matter and reserving it for orders.

48. As regards the plea of the learned Advocate-General that land compensation including resettlement and rehabilitation benefits were paid to all the petitioners as per their entitlement and that having accepted it the petitioners cannot argue on merits, we may state that the counsel for the petitioners disputed this statement and denied that petitioners were paid as per their lawful entitlement, both compensation for the land and structures and Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements.

49. Not a single agreement signed by the petitioners or any other material is placed by the respondents before this Court to show how the price/consideration per acre was arrived at, or for showing that the consent of all the petitioners to accept what was offered to them by the respondents was voluntary, or in support of their plea that petitioners have waived their right to claim compensation for land or structures or Rehabilitation and Resettlement entitlements from the respondents as per law either with the counter-affidavits or with the Memo.

Re : Para no.4

50. Reference is made to the interim order passed in Kondakandla Yadaiah (1 supra), (WP.No.25036 of 2016 and batch) and it is contended that these four matters have to be heard along with the said case.

51. In our opinion, there is no necessity to hear the instant cases along with the said batch because there is no challenge to G.O.Ms.No.123, Revenue (JA&LA) Department, dt.30.07.2015 in the instant cases, while in W.P.No.25036 of 2016 and batch, the validity of the said G.O. as well as amendments thereto were questioned as being ultra vires Act 30 of 2013.

Re. Para Nos.5 and 6

52. Para 5 refers to the pleading of the petitioners in these writ petitions which are a matter of record. Para 6 refers to other writ petitions with which we are not now concerned.

Re. Para No.7

53. In this paragraph it is reiterated by the learned Advocate General that there is no urgency in taking up these matters. We have already answered this point and rejected the plea of the learned Advocate General by giving specific reasons and we do not wish to repeat the same again.

Re. Para Nos.8 and 9

54. In Para 8 the mode of working of the office of the learned Advocate General and his Government Pleaders during the lockdown while dealing with matters pending in the High Court through Video Conferencing is mentioned.

It is stated in Para 9 that it is difficult for the learned Advocate General to present arguments through Video Conferencing mode, for final hearing because of disruption of audio/logging problems.

In this regard we wish to state that all the High Courts in the country including the Supreme Court have been doing hearing of matters mostly through Video Conferencing only since 24.03.2020 and it is not as if only this High Court is adopting that mode.

Though occasionally there were disruptions of audio and logging problems, from 12.05.2020 till 15.05.2020 when the learned Advocate General made submissions before this Bench not only in these matters and also other matters including PILs, we did not find any difficulty in hearing arguments of the petitioners’ counsel or the learned Advocate General or other Government Pleaders or counsel for respondents.

In fact, the learned Advocate General himself appeared and finally argued for the State on 12.5.2020, W.P. (PIL) No.75 of 2020 [where the action of the State Government in prohibiting testing for suspected COVID-19 persons in private ICMR laboratories and treatment in private hospitals was challenged by the petitioner Ganta Jai Kumar] and final orders allowing the said WP were pronounced by this Bench on 20.05.2020. (Cause-list dt.12.05.2020 – Annexure VIII). So he cannot say that hearing of the instant matters would take considerable time and therefore he would not address arguments in these matters.

In para 9 of the Memo, he also stated that norms regarding physical distance may be compromised since the Government Pleaders assisting him were supposed to maintain appropriate physical distance.

In regard to the above statement, we wish to state that from 12.05.2020 till 15.05.2020, the learned Advocate General made submissions before this Bench assisted by one of his Government Pleaders Sri Harender Pershad, sitting beside him in a chair for almost two hours or more every day. We could see both of them on our screens as the hearing of all cases was done by video conferencing. When there was no problem at that time when he was representing other matters before us, the learned Advocate General cannot say that only for these 4 matters he is worried about maintaining of appropriate physical distance.

Re. Para No.10

55. In para 10 it is stated that there were number of issues relating to facts which need to be ascertained from the concerned officers who were otherwise busy and that there were disputed questions of fact. The lack of urgency in hearing these matters is again reiterated.

56. We are unable to agree with the submissions of the learned Advocate General because issues of fact need to be answered in the counter affidavits with supporting material. As pointed out above, on 05.02.2020 only in W.P.No.37769 of 2017 and W.P.No.16344 of 2019, counter affidavits were filed without any supporting material as to how the compensation was arrived at, or for showing that the consent of all the petitioners to accept what was offered to them by the respondents was voluntary; and in W.P.No.21740 of 2019 and W.P.No.26575 of 2019, neither counter affidavit nor supporting material was filed.

57. While dealing with the merits of these matters, we shall discuss this aspect more in detail but we point out that in fact there were no such serious disputed questions of fact as is sought to be projected by the learned Advocate General. In any event, mere existence of disputed questions of fact is no reason to adjourn these four matters. The plea of lack of urgency has already been dealt with by us above and does not require repetition.

Re. Para No.11

58. In this para reference is made to possibility of the petitioners filing documents and the difficulty in accessing them electronically.

In the instant cases, no such new documents were placed on record by the counsel for petitioners and therefore this reason is also not a valid reason to adjourn these four matters.

59. When the learned Advocate General had no such objections like those mentioned in the Memo when these matters were listed before the earlier Bench presided over by the Hon’ble Hon’ble Chief Justice on 17.04.2020 at his instance, merely because there was a change of the Bench before which these matters were listed, he cannot ask us to simply adjourn the matters to an unknown future date. Particularly, when he did not argue the matters though sufficient time was granted to him by the earlier Bench as well as this Bench.

Consideration of merits of these cases

60. We have already referred to the contentions of the parties. We would like to briefly mention about G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 under which the respondents claim to have taken the lands of the petitioners.

G.O.Ms.No.123

61. This G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 was issued after coming into operation of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (Act No.30 of 2013) from 01.01.2014.

62. This G.O. was issued by the State of Telangana to expeditiously procure land for public projects and contemplates participation of land owners ‘willingly’ by selling their land and properties for a consideration on the basis of an agreement between them and the user department/undertaking/society/authority referred to as the ‘Procuring Agency’ and as approved by the District Level Land Procurement Committee (DLLPC).

63. It lays down the procedure to procure land from ‘willing land owners’. There would be a process of ascertainment by the District Collector of willingness of land owners for sale of land on receipt of information of need for land for public development purpose from the Procuring Agency; a District Level Land Procurement Committee consisting of the District Collector of the concerned district (Chairman), the Joint Collector of the District (Member), Land Procurement Officer i.e., SDCs/RDO (Convenor), SE/EE of Roads and Buildings (Member), Representative of the Procuring Agency (Member) and District Registrar (Member) would be constituted; the Land Procurement Officer would place all connected records of enquiry, valuation statements, encumbrances of preceding 12 years and other relevant records before the said Committee; the Committee would negotiate with the persons interested or authorized by them; the proceedings or deliberations of the Committee would be recorded/minuted; an agreement in Form 1 would be prepared which would be attested by all the Members; and after attesting Form 1, the Convenor would obtain affidavits from the concerned interested persons on the same day in Form II; once the agreement is reached, the Collector after executing agreements in Form I and Form II shall publish the details of the land owners including others and their respective shares in two newspapers inviting claims and objections within 15 days of publication of such notification; and after receipt of objections/claims, the Committee would examine and approve the consideration as detailed at para 2(viii) of the said G.O. for sale of land by individual land owners.

64. Para 2(viii) of the said G.O. states:

“The consideration as agreed by the individual land owner/owners and Procuring Agency before the District Level Land Procurement Committee shall inter-alia, include the value of land and property, perceived loss of livelihood, equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others.”

65. Subsequently vide G.O.Ms.No.214, Revenue (JA&LA) Department, dt.28.11.2015, the words “equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others” occurring in para 2(viii) of the G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 were deleted.

66. Consequently the consideration which would be paid to a willing land owner for selling his land would include only value of the land and property, perceived loss of livelihood only and not equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others.

67. An affidavit is obtained from a land owner that he would have no right to further enhancement of consideration finalized by the Committee to any other forum [para 2(ix) of G.O.Ms.No.123] and on signing of agreement, the District Collector would ensure registration of the conveyance deed/sale deed in favour of the Procuring Agency duly making online payment of consideration. [para 2(xi) of G.O.Ms.No.123].

The statutory scheme of Act 30 of 2013

68. For an Indian farmer like the petitioners, deprivation of agricultural land is traumatic, more so, when compensation as per the Law of the land is not paid at the earliest and proper Resettlement and Rehabilitation, as per law, is not done.

69. In Land Acquisition Officer v. Mahboob (2009) 14 SCC 54)the travails of a poor farmer who loses his land for a project under the earlier Land Acquisition Act,1894 were highlighted in the following manner by the Supreme Court:

“14. … The Collector (LAO) is supposed to offer a fair compensation by taking all relevant circumstances relating to market value into account.

15. To safeguard the interests of the landloser, the Act requires the Collector to make the award before the landowner is dispossessed. The intention is that the landloser will immediately be able to draw compensation and purchase some other suitable land or make appropriate arrangements for his livelihood. But in practice the Collectors (LAOs) seldom make reasonable offers. They tend to err on the ‘safer’ side and invariably assess very low compensation. Such meagre awards force the landloser to seek reference to the civil court for increase in compensation in regard to almost every award made by the LAO. In fact, many a time, even the Reference Courts are conservative in estimating the market value and it requires further appeals by the landloser to the High Court and the Supreme Court to get just compensation for the land.

16. We can take judicial notice of the fact that in several States the awards of the Reference Court or the judgments of the High Court and this Court increasing the compensation, are not complied with and the landlosers are again driven to courts to initiate time-consuming execution process (which also involves considerable expense by way of lawyer’s fee) to recover what is justly due. Resultantly the landlosers seldom get a substantial portion of proper compensation for their land in one lump sum immediately after the acquisition.

As the landowner does not get the full compensation in one lump sum, he is not in a position to purchase an alternative land. When the land is acquired, he loses his means of livelihood, as he knows no other type of work. The result is, he is forced to spend the compensation received in piecemeal, on sustenance of his family when he fights the legal battles for increasing the compensation and for recovering the increases granted, by levying execution. The result is that whatever compensation is received piecemeal, gets spent for the sustenance of the family, and litigation cost during the course of prolonged litigation. At the end of the legal battle, he is hardly left with any money to purchase alternative land and by then the prices of land would have also increased manifold, making it impossible to purchase even a fraction of the land which he originally possessed. Illiteracy, ignorance, and lack of counselling add to his woes and the piecemeal compensation is dissipated leaving him with neither land, nor money to buy alternative land, nor any means of livelihood. In short, he is stripped of his land and livelihood.”

(emphasis supplied)

70. This was reiterated and followed in Bondu Ramaswamy v. Bangalore Development Authority (2010) 7 SCC 129) in the following terms :

“150. Frequent complaints and grievances in regard to the following five areas, with reference to the prevailing system of acquisitions governed by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, requires the urgent attention of the State Governments and Development Authorities:

(i) absence of proper or adequate survey and planning before embarking upon acquisition;

(ii) indiscriminate use of emergency provisions in Section 17 of the LA Act;

(iii) notification of areas far larger than what is actually required, for acquisition, and then making arbitrary deletions and withdrawals from the acquisitions;

(iv) offer of very low amount as compensation by Land Acquisition Collectors, necessitating references to court in almost all cases;

(v) inordinate delay in payment of compensation; and

(vi) absence of any rehabilitatory measures. While the plight of project oustees and landlosers affected by acquisition for industries has been frequently highlighted in the media, there has been very little effort to draw attention to the plight of farmers affected by frequent acquisitions for urban development.”

71. In State of M.P. Vs. Narmada Bachao Andolan and another (2011) 7 S.C.C. 639), the Supreme Court explained the importance of Rehabilitation and Resettlement of land losers and other affected people when land is acquired by the State for public purpose. It declared that for people whose lives and livelihoods are intrinsically connected to the land, the economic and cultural shift to a market economy can be traumatic; that though the plea of deprivation of right to livelihood under Article 21 of the Constitution in the case of land acquisition is unsustainable, still they are entitled to resettlement and rehabilitation as per the policy framed for the oustees of the project; mere payment of compensation would not be enough in case the oustee is unable to purchase the land with the compensation received by him; that in the process of development, the State cannot be permitted to displace tribal people, a vulnerable section of society, suffering from poverty and ignorance, without taking appropriate remedial measures of rehabilitation; that ‘rehabilitation’, is restoration of status of something loss, displaced or even otherwise a grant to secure a dignified mode of life to a person who has nothing to sustain himself and is different from ‘compensation’; that this concept brings within its fold the presence of elements of Article 21 of the Constitution of India; and those who have been rendered destitute, have to be assured a permanent source of basic livelihood to sustain themselves. It clarified that rehabilitation has to be done to the extent of displacement that it is compensatory in nature with a view to ensure that the oustee and his family are at least restored to the status that was existing on the date of commencement of the proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

72. Taking note of these decisions, the Parliament in 2013 enacted the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

73. In the ‘Statements of Objects and Reasons’ to Act 30 of 2013 it is stated :

“… … In order to streamline the provisions of the Act causing less hardships to the owners of the land and other persons dependent upon such land, it is proposed repeal the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and to replace it with adequate provisions for rehabilitation and resettlement for the affected persons and their families.”

74. Interpreting the Act 30 of 2013, recently a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Indore Development Authority Vs. Manoharlal and others (MANU/SC/0300/2020) held that higher compensation to the land owner apart from rehabilitation is provided in the said Act and the Court has to give a full and meaningful effect to the Legislative intent. It declared:

“93. Undoubtedly the Act of 2013 has provided safeguards, in the form of higher compensation and provisions for rehabilitation, which are necessary. In that light, the court has to interpret its provisions, to give full and meaningful effect to the legislative intent keeping in mind the language and tenor of the provisions, it is not for the court to legislate. The Court can only iron out creases to clear ambiguity. The intended benefit should not be taken away.”

(emphasis supplied)

75. In the light of the above legal position and Section 38 of Act 30 of 2013, we shall now consider the rival contentions.

Re. Land Compensation

76. It is contended by the petitioners in these cases that coercive tactics were adopted and they were forced to sign ‘consent’ awards under G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 where an arbitrary price is fixed, which has no bearing to the registration or the market value of the lands in March, 2016.

77. Respondents contend in the counter affidavit filed in W.P.No.16344 of 2019 and W.P.No.37769 of 2017 that they had acted under G.O.Ms.NO.123 dt.30.7.2015 and that petitioners voluntarily sold their lands on the basis of agreement between themselves and the requisitioning department, as approved by the District Level Land Procurement Committee and they also agreed for the compensation of Rs.6,00,000/- per acre. According to them, the consideration for the land as agreed by the petitioners and the requisitioning agency before the District Level Land Procurement Committee is more beneficial than the land compensation allowed under Act 30 of 2013.

78. Not a single agreement or sale deed or other material said to have been signed by the petitioners with requisitioning department is filed by the respondents to support this plea as to how they gave their willingness to sell their land to the State and to accept what was offered to them by the respondents or how the compensation/price for petitioners’ lands’ was arrived at.

79. The respondents have also not filed before the Court the minutes of the meetings of the District Level Land Procurement Committee to show how it had arrived at the price/consideration to be offered to the petitioners for purchasing their land.

80. No record pertaining to the Registration department showing the market value as on the date of dispossession of the petitioners is filed by the respondents though the consideration is supposed to be fixed looking at valuation statement produced by the Land Procurement Officer (Clause (v) of the G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015).

81. Such record is critical to ascertain whether petitioners agreed to part with their lands voluntarily and whether price was arrived at objectively keeping in view the market value/ registration value of neighboring lands, and as to what the petitioners were made to agree was more beneficial than what they would have got for the land under Act 30 of 2013. This is because under Section 26(1) of the Act, the Collector has to adopt the higher rate among (a) market value specified in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 for registration of sale deeds or agreements to sell in the area where the land is situated or (b) the average sale price for similar type of land situated in the nearest village or vicinity.

82. Why this record of market value fixed under the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 by the Registration department of the State in regard to the lands in the villages of Allipur and Ananthagiri is suppressed from the Court is not explained by the State.

83. More importantly, petitioners had specifically alleged that the State had paid Rs.13,00,000/- per acre in May, 2017 for lands abutting the lands of the petitioners in Lingareddypalle Village, and petitioners were discriminated against, by being paid only Rs.6,50,000/- per acre. There is no denial of this allegation in the counter affidavits filed by the respondents and no record is produced as to how much amount was paid for land compensation to land losers in Lingareddypalle Village by the respondents. So this allegation made by the petitioners that they were discriminated against by the respondents and that they were paid paltry compensation for their lands as consideration/price for it’s sale to the State has to be taken as true.

84. Admittedly, there is unequal bargaining power between the State actors such as the respondents and the petitioners, who are small farmers.

85. How the courts should deal with the unconscionable contracts between parties with unequal bargaining power has been eloquently answered by the Supreme Court in Central Inland Water Transport Corpn. Ltd. v. Brojo Nath Ganguly (1986) 3 SCC 156 at para 89 p.216) saying that:

“89. … Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons equality before the law and the equal protection of laws. … This principle is that the courts will not enforce and will, when called upon to do so, strike down an unfair and unreasonable contract, or an unfair and unreasonable clause in a contract, entered into between parties who are not equal in bargaining power. … For instance, the above principle will apply where the inequality of bargaining power is the result of the great disparity in the economic strength of the contracting parties. … It will also apply where a man has no choice or rather no meaningful choice, but to give his assent to a contract or to sign on the dotted line in a prescribed or standard form or to accept a set of rules as part of the contract, however unfair, unreasonable and unconscionable a clause in that contract or form or rules may be.”

(emphasis supplied)

86. This principle was followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Sant Singh v. State of Haryana (2013) SCC online P & H 26646) where the said High Court set aside the agreements entered into by farmers with a private builder (who managed, without their knowledge, to get the proposal for acquisition of their land approved by the State, withdrawn, and got the lands released from such acquisition), so that he may buy the lands from them at a slightly better rate. It held:

“To say that the landowners entered into varied contracts with Respondent 11 voluntarily, willingly or without undue pressure is too farcical to be believed. There is a natural and conventional bondage between the land and its tiller. A farmer seldom sells the land save for the compelling reasons. Agriculture being their only source of survival, the loss of land is a terrible nightmare for any farmer. The Land Acquisition Collectors never assess the compensation as per actual market value of the land and the only yardstick to be followed is the Collector’s rate fixed for the purpose of registration charges. The farmer cannot sell the land in open market as on issuance of Section 4 notification all sale transactions are invariably banned. These moments of fear and anxiety must have prompted Respondent 11 to indulge in the best bargain. For the farmers the offer was like “better you give the wool than the whole sheep”. There was no free trade for the farmers. Their choice was limited: to accept the State compensation at the Collector’s rate or a better offer given by State-sponsored private builder. There was inequality of bargaining power. The determination of land value was not at all in the control of farmers. They were groping in the dark. They had no clue that the land will be released. They accepted the unreasonable and unfair unilateral terms and lost their land.

71. The sale price of the land was determined by Respondent 11 and not by the market forces. Given a choice between retaining their land or selling it to the builder for the offered price, not a single farmer would have agreed to sell it. The circumstances forced the landowners to accede to the offer made by the 11th respondent. It is a proven case of unconscionable bargain exerted through undue influence and fraud, both. The sample “agreements” on record truly reveal that illiterate/semi-literate farmers were asked to sign the documents on dotted lines forcing them to sell out most of their ancestral holdings. The en masse “agreements” conclusively belie the plea of need-based bona fide sales.”

(emphasis supplied)

It held that the State cannot force the landowners to surrender their title in favour of and at a price to be dictated by a private beneficiary. The notified public purpose was only a ruse to enable the private State sponsored builder to purchase the land at the lowest possible price for maximising the profiteering.

87. This decision of the Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was approved by the Supreme Court in Uddar Gagan Properties Ltd. v. Sant Singh (2016) 11 SCC 378). The Supreme Court declared:

“18. There could be no objection to acquisition of land for a compelling public purpose nor to regulated development of colonies, but entertaining an application for releasing of land in favour of the builder who comes into picture after acquisition notification and release of land to such builder tantamounts to acquisition for a private purpose. It amounts to transfer of resources of poor for the benefit of the rich. It amounts to permitting profiteering at the cost of livelihood and existence of a farmer. This is against the philosophy of the Constitution and in violation of guaranteed fundamental rights of equality and right to property and to life. What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly also.

19. This apart, if the State is to be party to directly or indirectly select beneficiary of State largesse—which in present fact situation the State certainly is—objectivity and transparency are essential elements of exercise of public power which are required to be followed. It is patent that the State has enabled the builder to enter the field after initiation of acquisition to seek colonisation on the land covered by acquisition. In the absence of the State’s action, it was not possible for the builder to enter into the transactions in question which was followed by withdrawal from acquisition. But for assurance from some quarters, the builder could not have made investment nor landowners could have executed the transactions in question. Such fraudulent and clandestine exercise of power by the State is not permitted by law. This is in violation of public trust doctrine laid down inter alia in Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. v. Reliance Industries Ltd. (2010) 7 SCC 1), Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India (2012) 3 SCC 1), Natural Resources Allocation, In re, Special Reference No. 1 of 2012 (2012) 10 SCC 1) and Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India (2014) 9 SCC 516)”

(emphasis supplied)

88. Since objectivity and transparency are essential elements of exercise of public power which are required to be followed, and we find that in the instant cases there is absence of any evidence of (a) objective determination of the quantum of consideration and (b) transparency in the actions of respondents, we find that the exercise of public power by the respondents is in violation of the public trust doctrine and unconscionable.

89. It appears that in the instant cases too, the petitioners were given no choice or rather no meaningful choice, in view of their unequal bargaining power with the respondents, but to give their assent to a contract or to sign on the dotted line in a prescribed or standard form though it was unfair, unreasonable and unconscionable.

90. We thus find considerable force in the contentions of the petitioners that there has been arbitrary fixation of price of the lands of the petitioners by the respondents and possible coercion by State in obtaining their signatures for parting with their land.

91. So we declare that the agreements/consent awards entered into by the petitioners with the State are vitiated by coercion, that they are unconscionable and consequently unenforceable invoking Sec. 19 and 23 of the Contract Act, 1872. We also hold that the action of the respondents is also violative of Art.14 and 300-A of the Constitution of India. Consequently, the petitioners would be entitled to compensation as if their lands had been acquired under Act 30 of 2013.

92. We thus hold that petitioners are entitled to compensation strictly in accordance with the Act 30 of 2013 taking their respective dates of dispossession as the date of Sec.11 (1) notification.

93. We direct that amounts already paid to petitioners shall not be recovered by the respondents and shall be adjusted by the State towards the compensation found payable to the petitioners after such compensation for land is determined strictly in accordance with the procedure prescribed in Act 30 of 2013 and as mentioned below.

Re. payment for structures

94. As regards compensation for structures, it is the case of the petitioners in WP. No.16344 of 2019 and WP.No.26575 of 2019 that there was no proper assessment of compensation for structures by the respondents and their several representations were ignored.

95. In para 6 of the counter affidavit in W.P.No.16344 of 2019, there is a mention of some structures such as a well, water sump, bore, pipeline, various trees, but there is no mention of cattle sheds. However, this being a disputed question of fact, we refrain from going into it in the said Writ petition.

96. Several structures such as cattle sheds, wells, trees, bore-well, pipeline are mentioned by the petitioners in W.P.No.26575 of 2019 in para 6 of the affidavit filed in support it, but no counter affidavit is filed in the said Writ Petition.

97. Since there is no denial by the respondents of the contentions of the petitioners in this Writ Petition regarding the structures mentioned by them in para 6 of the affidavit filed in support of the same, we accept their plea that no compensation for such structures was paid . We accordingly hold that the petitioners therein are entitled to value of the said structures as well.

Re. Rehabilitation and Resettlement

98. The petitioners in W.P.No.37769 of 2017 and W.P.No.21740 of 2019 further contend that as per the allegedly consensual award, there is no scope separately for Rehabilitation and Resettlement as provided in Section 31 and Schedules II and II

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I of the Act 30 of 2013 and they were deprived of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement benefits whichthey are entitled to under the said Act and that this violates Article 14 and 300A of the Constitution of India, Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and Act 30 of 2013. 99. They also contend that even the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Telangana Amendment) Act, 2016 (Act 21 of 2017) amending Act 30 of 2013 and adding Section 31A to Act 30 of 2013 with retrospective effect from 01.01.2014 entitles the petitioners to get a lump sum amount, notwithstanding anything contained in the said Act, in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement whenever land is to be acquired for irrigation projects; and that petitioners have been denied the benefit thereunder and this violates Article 14 and Article 300A of the Constitution of India. 100. We agree with the said contention for the following reasons: (a) Para 2(viii) of the G.O.Ms.NO.123 dt.30.7.2015 states: “The consideration as agreed by the individual land owner/owners and Procuring Agency before the District Level Land Procurement Committee shall inter-alia, include the value of land and property, perceived loss of livelihood, equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others.” Subsequently vide G.O.Ms.No.214, Revenue (JA&LA) Department, dt.28.11.2015, the words “equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others” occurring in para 2(viii) of the G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015 were deleted. Consequently the consideration which would be paid to a willing land owner for selling his land would include only value of the land and property, perceived loss of livelihood only and not equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others. 101. But Act 21 of 2017 was passed by the State of Telangana amending the Act 30 of 2013 retrospectively from 1.1.2014 and the said amending Act added Sec.31 A after Sec.31 of Act 30 of 2013. 102. Sec.31 A states: “31A. Payment of Lump sum amount by State Government – Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, whenever the land is to be acquired for any projects as notified in Section 10A, it shall be competent for the State Government to pay such lump sum amount as may be prescribed in the rules in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement: Provided that the payment of such lump-sum amount in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement as may be prescribed, shall not be abnormally at variance to the disadvantage of the affected families. [Vide Telangana Amendment Act 21 of 2017, w.r.e.f. 1.1.2014]” 103. Sec.31 A thus makes even land owners deprived of their lands by the State for irrigation projects (Sec.10A(b)) entitled to a lump sum amount in lieu of Rehabilitation and Resettlement which is not to be at variance to the disadvantage of the affected families. 104. So even if G.O.Ms.No.214, Revenue (JA&LA) Department, dt.28.11.2015 deleted the words “equivalent costs required for rehabilitation and resettlement of willing land owners and others” occurring in para 2(viii) of the G.O.Ms.No.123 dt.30.07.2015, still the said GO would be overridden by the non obstante clause in Sec.31A, and make the petitioners entitled to the said amounts. 105. This legal position is not disputed by the learned Learned Advocate General. 106. There is no material produced by the respondents to show that the petitioners in all these cases were paid lump sum Rehabilitation and Resettlement amounts in addition to market value compensation for their lands. 107. Therefore we hold that the petitioners are entitled to not only compensation for their lands in accordance with the provisions of Act 30 of 2013 but also to the lump sum amounts towards Rehabilitation and Resettlement as per Sec.31A. 108. In the result we hold that : (a) the memo dt.14.5.2020 filed by the learned Advocate General seeking adjournment of these matters and contending that there is no urgency is rejected in toto; (b) the agreements / consent awards allegedly obtained by the respondents from the petitioners in all these WPs were obtained by coercion and are unconscionable and hit by Sec.19 and 23 of the Contract Act, 1872, that the respondents did not fix/give proper price (as per market value) to petitioners for depriving them of their lands for the Anantagirisagar Reservoir and so the said agreements/consent awards do not bind the petitioners; (c) the actions of the respondents in depriving lawful compensation and Rehabilitation and Resettlement to petitioners violates Art.14 and 300-A of the Constitution of India and the Act 30 of 2013; (d) the respondents shall re-determine the compensation payable to the petitioners strictly in accordance with Act 30 of 2013 for depriving the petitioners of their lands taking the date of their dispossession as the relevant date for the purposes of computing the same; (e) petitioners in WP. No. 16344 of 2019 are not entitled to any further amounts for structures; (f) petitioners in WP.No.21750 of 2019 are alone entitled to the compensation for the structures mentioned in para 6 of the affidavit filed in support of the said Writ Petition; (g) all the petitioners in these 4 WPs are entitled to lump sum compensation in lieu of Resettlement and Rehabilitation under Sec.31 A of Act 21 of 2017; (h) amounts already paid to petitioners shall not be recovered pending fresh determination of the compensation for land, structures and the lump sum Rehabilitation and Resettlement under Sec 31 A of the Act as directed above; 109. We direct that the exercise of re-determination of compensation for lands, structures and determination of the lump sum Rehabilitation and Resettlement under Sec 31 A of the Act to each of the petitioners as directed above as well as payment of the same shall be made within 3 months by the respondents taking into account the amounts already received by the petitioners; and that the 1st respondent shall also pay costs of Rs.2,000/- to each of the petitioners. 110. All these Writ Petitions are allowed as above. 111. As a sequel, miscellaneous petitions pending if any, in these Writ Petitions, shall stand closed.
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