Common Judgment: (Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta. CJ.)
Both the appeals are taken up for hearing as they have been preferred against the same judgment and order of the learned trial Judge.
2. Respondents/writ petitioners challenged the acquisition proceedings involving their lands. We therefore feel it convenient to set out the prayer portion of the writ petition hereunder:
'Issue a Writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction, declaring the action of the respondents in purporting to acquire the lands belonging to the 1st petitioner situated in Sy.Nos.274/1 & 3, 275/2 & 5 and 276/1 & 3, 278, 2nd petitioner in Sy.Nos.275/3, 275/9 and 276/3, 3rd petitioner in Sy.No.275/8, 4th petitioner in Sy.No.317/3A, 5th petitioner in Sy.No.1237/2A and 6th petitioner in Sy.No.278 of Tenepalle Village, Puthalput Mandal of Chittoor District pursuant to the land acquisition Notification in ROC.G3/5636/2008 dated .04.2008, which was published on 07.05.2008 in Vaartha Telugu Daily for the purpose of establishment of industrial park as arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional and consequently direct the respondents to forbear from interfering with the possession and enjoyment of the petitioners over the subject lands.'
3. The writ petition was filed on 12-02-2009 to challenge above Notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (Act 1 of 1894) (hereinafter referred to as ‘Act 1’) issued in February, 2008. In the writ petition, the petitioners had stated factual aspects to establish their case that there was no public purpose existing to issue the above notification for acquisition of their lands. In the body of the writ petition, it was admitted that after issuance of the notification, the petitioners had filed objections under Section 5-A of Act 1. On the date of filing of the writ petition, it was their grievance that the said objections were not dealt with but were kept pending and perhaps that was the reason why they approached the writ Court for a decision in their favour that there was no public purpose existing to acquire their lands.
4. A counter-affidavit was filed by respondent No.2 in the writ petition and it was stated therein that on 12-02-2009 the objections under Section 5-A of Act 1 were dealt with by the Collector and were overruled. It was further stated that the declaration under Section 6 of Act 1 was also made ready.
5. This was the factual situation at the time of hearing of the writ petition before the learned trial Judge.
6. In that context, we are to scrutinise whether the judgment and order of the learned trial Judge was warranted in the way it was done by His Lordship.
7. The learned counsel for the State submits that after submitting to the jurisdiction of the Collector on issuance of the notification under Section 4(1) of Act 1, it was not open to the writ petitioners to challenge the same as all the objections sought to be raised by them with regard to its legality and validity are deemed to have been waived. Moreover, ‘public purpose’ is a mixed question of fact and law. Once, the factual aspect was decided by the Collector who is competent to do so, the writ petitioners without laying any challenge thereto cannot ask for overturning the same, which has been actually done here.
8. The learned counsel for the writ petitioners/respondents submits that the notification under Section 4(1) of Act 1 can be challenged at any stage and his clients, after submitting their objections, having found that the same have not been disposed of within a reasonable time, had no option but to approach this Court for a remedy.
9. The learned trial Judge examined the element of public purpose and on facts found it to be non-existing. Accordingly, he found the need to interfere with the proposed acquisition.
10. The learned counsel for the appellant/beneficiary supports the submission made by the learned counsel for the State. He also states that factually the plot of the writ petitioners is located in between two plots which have already been acquired and allotted and for this acquisition of the whole area, his client had invested a lot of money and therefore, the order of the learned trial Judge is unjustified on the facts and circumstances of the case.
11. We have heard the parties and we considered the records. It appears that the admitted position is that the writ petitioners factually filed objections under Section 5-A of Act 1. Therefore, the legality and validity of the notification under Section 4(1) of Act 1 is deemed to have been waived by the petitioners after submitting of their objections. It is nobody’s case that the Collector is not competent to issue notification under Section 4(1) of Act 1, but the question is whether, on the facts and circumstances of the case, issuance of such notification was justified or not. These facts have been stated in the objections filed under 5-A of Act 1.
12. The writ petitioners at the most could have asked for disposal of the objections filed under Section 5-A of Act 1 in accordance with law since they had not been disposed of by the time of filing of the writ petition. It was not open to the writ petitioners to get a decision on their objections from the writ Court pending disposal of the objections before the Collector. According to us, the writ Court should not have usurped the jurisdiction of the Collector even if the objections were still pending before the Collector at the time of filing of the writ petition and first Court at that stage could have asked the Collector to decide the objections.
13. In any view of the matter, the writ Court granted interim relief protecting the possession of the writ petitioners over their lands and it had been allowed to continue till the disposal of the writ petition. The acquisition proceedings therefore did not lapse.
14. The learned trial Judge did not take note of the fact stated in the counter-affidavit that the objections filed by the writ petitioners under Section 5-A of the Act 1 were disposed of rightly or wrongly by the Collector and no action was taken thereon by the petitioners despite the same being made known to them through the counter-affidavit filed in the writ proceedings. There cannot be two parallel decisions on the issue. No doubt the writ Court is competent to decide otherwise, but when the Collector decided the objections first and no challenge has been made, his decision on the factual issue as to the public purpose becomes final and it operates as res judicata in principle. The learned trial Judge however overlooked this legal aspect of the matter.
15. Under these circumstances, we feel that it was not open to the learned trial Judge to upset, by necessary implication, the order of the Collector under Section 5-A of Act 1, though not challenged, and the notification under Section 4(1) of the Act 1. The learned trial Judge should have held that after filing of objections under Section 5-A of Act 1, it was not open to the owners of the lands to challenge the notification issued under Section 4(1) of Act 1. Therefore, the judgment and order passed by the learned trial Judge is not sustainable.
16. However, taking totality of the matter into account and having regard to the admitted fact that personal hearing to the writ petitioners has not been given before deciding the objections under Section 5-A of Act 1, we think it fit to direct the Collector concerned to serve notice in writing on the writ petitioners and on their learned advocates intending to give a personal hearing. On receipt of the notice, if the writ petitioners or their authorised representatives appear for personal hearing, they should be heard and the Collector concerned shall consider their objections and thereafter pass fresh order either reversing the original order passed in that r
Please Login To View The Full Judgment!
egard or retaining the same or modifying the same as the situation warrants. Accordingly, the order overruling the objections filed by the petitioners under Section 5-A of Act 1 or for that matter the steps taken subsequently shall be kept in abeyance till such objections are decided afresh. It is made clear that if despite service of notice, the writ petitioners or their authorised representatives do not turn up, then no hearing is required to be given and the order passed already and the steps taken consequent thereto will stand revived. The entire exercise of the Collector should be completed within four weeks from the date of communication of this judgment. Thereafter, the parties are free to take steps in accordance with law. 17. Both the writ appeals are accordingly disposed of. The miscellaneous petitions pending, if any, shall stand closed. No order as to costs.