Oral Judgment: (Pradeep Nandrajog, CJ.)
1. The present reference is on account of the order dated 4th August, 2017 passed by a Division Bench of this Court and the question for consideration is found in paragraph 15 of the said order. The said question reads as under:-
“Whether the provision of Sub-Section 1 of Section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 as amended, which enlarges the period of 12 months to 24 months for a Planning / Development / Appropriate Authority to take effective steps for acquisition of the reserved land would apply to a notice under Sub-Section 1 of Section 127 served on the concerned Authority before the amended provisions came into force?”
2. Sub-section (1) of Section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 prior to its amendment on 29th August 2015 read as under:-
“If any land reserved, allotted or designated for any purpose specified in any plan under this Act is not acquired by agreement within ten years from the date on which a final Regional Plan, or final Development Plan comes into force or if a declaration under subsection (2) or (4) of section 126 is not published in the Official Gazette within such period, the owner or any person interested in the land may serve notice, along with the documents showing his title or interest in the said land, on the Planning Authority, the Development Authority or, as the case may be, the Appropriate Authority to that effect; and if within twelve months from the date of the service of such notice, the land is not acquired or no steps as aforesaid are commenced for its acquisition, the reservation, allotment or designation shall be deemed to have lapsed, and thereupon, the land shall be deemed to be released from such reservation, allotment or designation and shall become available to the owner for the purpose of development as otherwise, permissible in the case of adjacent land under the relevant plan”.
3. By virtue of the amendment the words `twelve months' were replaced by the words `twenty-four months'.
4. The reference arose on account of the fact that in the decision reported as 2015 (1) Mh.L.J. 719 Shantaram Shankar Jamsandekar & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors . with reference to the fact that the development plan came into effect on 18.02.1999 and purchase notice was served on 11.03.2010 but land not being acquired within twelve months the action was brought seeking a declaration that the subject land was free to be used and the defence taken was that on the petitioner applying from removing the land from the reservation the general body of the third respondent passed a resolution on 20.01.2005 to remove the reservation and pursuant thereto action was taken under Section 37 of the Act. That the first respondent therein wrote to the third respondent therein concerning utilization of the land if the development plan was modified. That in view of said subsequent event the question of the land being free from the rigors of the development plan did not arise, the Division Bench held that the right accruing to the petitioner under Section 127 were independent and could not be construed as having any relation to the action under Section 37. Said decision was read by another Division Bench in the decision reported as 2017 (2) Mh.L.J. 284 Vishnu Vasant Developers, DIGRAS & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. and another Division Bench in the judgment reported as 2017 SCC OnLine Bombay 140 Nagina Hakimuddin Akolawala vs. State of Maharashtra to lay down the proposition that the amendment was prospective and vested right accrued on the date when the notice contemplated by Section 127 was served. Another Division Bench deciding a batch of Writ Petitions, lead matter being W.P. No. 3954/2006 Harendra Bhikubhai Adhyaru & ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. by way of obiter took a contra view.
5. It is settled beyond pale of controversy that all laws are presumed to be prospective unless the legislature unequivocally expresses its intent for the operation of such provisions retrospectively. Such an intent may be discerned from the express words employed by the legislature or by overwhelming evidence of necessary implication. The presumption of prospective operation of all laws is premised on a sublime philosophy that is aptly captured by two principles of law having immemorial antiquity. The first principle being, Nova Constitutio Futuris Formam Imponere Debet, Non Praeteritis which literally translates to mean that a new law ought to be construed to interfere as little as possible with vested rights. The second tenet of law is expressed as Lex prospicit non respicit which broadly implies that law looks forward and not backward.
6. Recently the Supreme Court of India in its decision reported as (2018) 3 SCC 253 CIT vs. Essar Teleholdings Ltd., has held that it is a settled principle of statutory construction that every statute is prima facie prospective unless it is expressly or by necessary implications made to have retrospective operations. The Court observed that the legal maxim nova constitutio futuris formam imponere debet non praeteritis i.e. a new law ought to regulate what is to follow, not the past, contains a principle of presumption of prospectivity of a statute.
7. A Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in its judgment reported as (2015) 1 SCC 1 CIT vs. Vatika Township (P) Ltd., concatenated the principles involved in determining whether a statutory provision was intended to be conferred retrospective operation by the legislature. It would be apposite to extract the luminous observations hitheretofore:
“28. Of the various rules guiding how a legislation has to be interpreted, one established rule is that unless a contrary intention appears, a legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation. The idea behind the rule is that a current law should govern current activities. Law passed today cannot apply to the events of the past. If we do something today, we do it keeping in view the law of today and in force and not tomorrow's backward adjustment of it. Our belief in the nature of the law is founded on the bedrock that every human being is entitled to arrange his affairs by relying on the existing law and should not find that his plans have been retrospectively upset. This principle of law is known as lex prospicit non respicit: law looks forward not backward. As was observed in Phillips v. Eyre [(1870) LR 6 QB 1], a retrospective legislation is contrary to the general principle that legislation by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated when introduced for the first time to deal with future acts ought not to change the character of past transactions carried on upon the faith of the then existing law.
29. The obvious basis of the principle against retrospectivity is the principle of “fairness”, which must be the basis of every legal rule as was observed in L’Office Cherifien des Phosphates v. Yamashita-Shinnihon Steamship Co. Ltd. [(1994) 1 AC 486 : (1994) 2 WLR 39 : (1994) 1 ALL ER 20 (HL)]. Thus, legislations which modified accrued rights or which impose obligations or impose new duties or attach a new disability have to be treated as prospective unless the legislative intent is clearly to give the enactment a retrospective effect; unless the legislation is for purpose of supplying an obvious omission in a former legislation or to explain a former legislation. We need not note the cornucopia of case law available on the subject because aforesaid legal position clearly emerges from the various decisions and this legal position was conceded by the counsel for the parties. In any case, we shall refer to few judgments containing this dicta, a little later.
30. We would also like to point out, for the sake of completeness, that where a benefit is conferred by a legislation, the rule against a retrospective construction is different. If a legislation confers a benefit on some persons but without inflicting a corresponding detriment on some other person or on the public generally, and where to confer such benefit appears to have been the legislators’ object, then the presumption would be that such a legislation, giving it a purposive construction, would warrant it to be given a retrospective effect. This exactly is the justification to treat procedural provisions as retrospective. In Govt. of India v. Indian Tobacco Assn. [(2005) 7 SCC 396], the doctorine of fairness was held to be relevant factor to construe a statute conferring a benefit, in the context of it to be given a retrospective operation. The same doctrine of fairness, to hold that a statute was retrospective in nature, was applied in Vijay v. State of Maharashtra [(2006) 6 SCC 289]. It was held that where a law is enacted for the benefit of community as a whole, even in the absence of a provision the statute may be held to be retrospective in nature. However, we are (sic not) confronted with any such situation here.
31. In such cases, retrospectivity is attached to benefit the persons in contradistinction to the provision imposing some burden or liability where the presumption attaches towards prospectivity. In the instant case, the proviso added to Section 113 of the Act is not beneficial to the assessee. On the contrary, it is a provision which is onerous to the assessee. Therefore, in a case like this, we have to proceed with the normal rule of presumption against retrospective operation. Thus, the rule against retrospective operation is a fundamental rule of law that no statute shall be construed to have a retrospective operation unless such a construction appears very clearly in the terms of the Act, or arises by necessary and distinct implication. Dogmatically framed, the rule is no more than a presumption, and thus could be displaced by outweighing factors.”
8. Closely intertwined with the concept of Retrospective operation of laws is the principle of ‘Retroactivity’. The subtle but real conceptual difference between the two principles has been recognized time and again by the Courts of the land. The Supreme Court in its judgment reported as (2005) 7 SCC 584 State Bank's Staff Union (Madras Circle) v. Union of India, while adumbrating upon the distinction between the two, took stock of the meaning of the connotations as emerging from various law lexicons and also cited with approval Treatises of eminent authors. The relevant portion of the discussion may be extracted hereinunder:
“20. Judicial Dictionary (13th Edn.) by K.J. Aiyar, Butterworth, p. 857, states that the word “retrospective” when used with reference to an enactment may mean (i) affecting an existing contract; or (ii) reopening up of past, closed and completed transaction; or (iii) affecting accrued rights and remedies; or (iv) affecting procedure. Words and Phrases, Permanent Edn., Vol. 37-A, pp. 224- 25, defines a “retrospective or retroactive law” as one which takes away or impairs vested or accrued rights acquired under existing laws. A retroactive law takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability, in respect to transactions or considerations already past.
21. In Advanced Law Lexicon by P. Ramanath Aiyar (3rd Edn., 2005) the expressions “retroactive” and “retrospective” have been defined as follows at p. 4124, Vol. 4:
“Retroactive.— Acting backward; affecting what is past.
(Of a statute, ruling, etc.) extending in scope or effect to matters that have occurred in the past. — Also termed retrospective. (Black's Law Dictionary, 7th Edn., 1999)
“Retroactivity” is a term often used by lawyers but rarely defined. On analysis it soon becomes apparent, moreover, that it is used to cover at least two distinct concepts. The first, which may be called “true retroactivity”, consists in the application of a new rule of law to an act or transaction which was completed before the rule was promulgated. The second concept, which will be referred to as “quasi-retroactivity”, occurs when a new rule of law is applied to an act or transaction in the process of completion…. The foundation of these concepts is the distinction between completed and pending transactions….’ T.C. Hartley, Foundations of European Community Law, p. 129 (1981).”
Retrospective.—Looking back; contemplating what is past.
Having operation from a past time.
‘Retrospective’ is somewhat ambiguous and that good deal of confusion has been caused by the fact that it is used in more senses than one. In general, however, the courts regard as retrospective any statute which operates on cases or facts coming into existence before its commencement in the sense that it affects, even if for the future only, the character or consequences of transactions previously entered into or of other past conduct. Thus, a statute is not retrospective merely because it affects existing rights; nor is it retrospective merely because a part of the requisite for its action is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing. (Vol. 44, Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th Edn., p. 570, para 921.)”
9. Reference may also be made to Craies on Legislation; Thomson-Sweet & Maxwell South Asian Edition-2010 (Ninth Edition) wherein the author has sought to explain the ambit of the expression retrospective at Pages 431-432.
“Legislation is retrospective if it has effect in relation to a matter arising before it was enacted or made. This definition is easy to state, but not always easy to apply.
A more complex definition enunciated in the last edition of this work received judicial approval. The definition is “ A statute is deemed to be retrospective, which takes away or impairs any vested right acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, or imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect to transactions or considerations already past.” This judicial approbation was given by Sir. Thomas Bingham M.R in L’office Cherifen des Phosphates Vs. Yamashita Shinnihon Steamship Co. Ltd. (1994) 1 All ER 20”
10. It would be pertinent to highlight that the decision in L’Office Cherifen des Phosphates case (supra) has been cited with approval by the Supreme Court in its judgment reported as (2006) 6 SCC 289 Vijay Vs. State of Maharashtra.
11. The expression ‘vested rights’ is not defined by the legislature in any statute and its contours can be discovered by examining the decisions of the Courts; where on a case by case basis certain rights were held to have vested or accrued in favour of the beneficiaries.
12. The Supreme Court of India in its judgment reported as (2011) 6 SCC 570 J.S. Yadav v. State of U.P., pertinently observed:
“20. ‘17. The word ‘vested’ is defined in Black's Law Dictionary (6th Edn.) at p. 1563, as:
‘Vested; fixed; accrued; settled; absolute; complete. Having the character or given the rights of absolute ownership; not contingent; not subject to be defeated by a condition precedent.’
Rights are ‘vested’ when right to enjoyment, present or prospective, has become property of some particular person or persons as present interest; mere expectancy of future benefits, or contingent interest in property founded on anticipated continuance of existing laws, does not constitute vested rights.
In Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary (International Edn.) at p. 1397, ‘vested’ is defined as:
‘[L]aw held by a tenure subject to no contingency; complete; established by law as a permanent right; vested interests.’ ” (See Bibi Sayeeda v. State of Bihar [(1996) 9 SCC 516 : AIR 1996 SC 1936] at SCC p. 527, para 17.)
21. The word “vest” is normally used where an immediate fixed right in present or future enjoyment in respect of a property is created. With the long usage the said word “vest” has also acquired a meaning as “an absolute or indefeasible right”. It had a “legitimate” or “settled expectation” to obtain right to enjoy the property, etc. Such “settled expectation” can be rendered impossible of fulfillment due to change in law by the legislature. Besides this, such a “settled expectation” or the socalled “vested right” cannot be countenanced against public interest and convenience which are sought to be served by amendment of the law. (Vide Howrah Municipal Corpn. v. Ganges Rope Co. Ltd. [(2004) 1 SCC 663] )
22. Thus, “vested right” is a right independent of any contingency. Such a right can arise from a contract, statute or by operation of law. A vested right can be taken away only if the law specifically or by necessary implication provides for such a course.”
13. In the context of a dispute between the landlord and the tenant, the Supreme Court in its judgment reported as AIR 1966 SC 1758 Trimbak Damodhar Raipurkar v. Assaram Hiraman Patil, was required to opine upon the effect of amendments in the Tenancy laws upon the lease in question. The facts emerging from a perusal of the report reveals that owing to operation of certain legislative amendments the tenancy could not be terminated on the expiry of tenancy except by giving one year's notice and that too on the ground that the lands were required by the landlord for bona fide personal cultivation and that the income of the said lands would be the main source of income of the landlord. The relevant averments about these grounds were required to be made by the landlord in issuing the notice to the tenants for terminating their tenancy. The said amendment came into effect during the pendency of the notice for eviction that already been dispatched by the landlord in accord with the requirements comprised in the erstwhile statutory provisions. The proceedings instituted by the landlord for the ejectment of the tenant failed as the Notice of ejectment was not in consonance with the requirement of the new provisions applicable to such tenancy. It was urged on behalf of the landlord that the rigors of the new law would not be attracted to the case at hand as rights had vested in his favour. Repelling such a contention it was held by the Apex Court that at the time when the amendment had come into effect the Tenancy had not expired and that the right of the Landlord to eject the tenants would arise only on the termination of the tenancy. However, in the interregnum the statutory provision extended the life of the tenancy. It was further observed that the right as a landlord to obtain possession did not accrue merely on the giving of the notice and the said right only accrued in his favour on the date when the lease expired.
14. In the context of service jurisprudence, the Supreme Court in its judgment reported as (2009) 12 SCC 62 High Court of Delhi v. A.K. Mahajan, observed that to be considered is a right of an employee but merely being considered, in itself, is not a vested right and such a benefit as it may or may not result in the selection or promotion of an employee and hence it is in the nature of a chance. A mere chance of promotion being affected by amendment is inconsequential and that since promotion is not a right of the employee, a mere chance of promotion if affected cannot and does not invalidate the action on the part of the employer. That right of consideration may accrue at a particular point of time or subsequently thereto. Merely because at a particular point of time the employee is not considered, does not mean the total denial of the consideration of the employee.
15. The Supreme Court in its judgment reported as (1990) 3 SCC 157 N.T. Devin Katti v. Karnataka Public Service Commission had the occasion to lay down the law with regard to the effect of an amendment to the recruitment rules after publication an advertisement inviting applications for direct recruitment to a category of posts. It was observed by the Court that the candidates who apply, and undergo written or viva voce test acquire vested right for being considered for selection in accordance with the terms and conditions contained in the advertisement, unless the advertisement itself indicates a contrary intention. Generally, a candidate has a right to be considered in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in the advertisement as his right crystallises on the date of publication of advertisement, however he has no absolute right in the matter. If the recruitment Rules are amended retrospectively during the pendency of selection, in that event selection must be held in accordance with the amended Rules. It was further observed that a candidate on making application for a post pursuant to an advertisement does not acquire any vested right of selection, but if he is eligible and is otherwise qualified in accordance with the relevant rules and the terms contained in the advertisement, he does acquire a vested right of being considered for selection is accordance with the rules as they existed on the date of advertisement. He cannot be deprived of that limited right on the amendment of rules during the pendency of selection unless the amended rules are retrospective in nature.
16. The Supreme Court in its decision reported as (1987) 3 SCC 622 P. D. Aggarwal and Ors. Vs. Respondent: State of U.P. and Ors. observed that there is no cavil with the proposition that the government has the power to make and amend rules giving retrospective effect. Nevertheless, such retrospective amendments cannot take away the vested rights which have accrued and the amendments must be reasonable and conform to the provisions of the constitution. 17. The Supreme Court in its decision reported as (2010) 12 SCC 130 Ramesh Gajendra Jadhav v. S.G.S.P. Mandal, held that no indefeasible right to continue in employment vested in favour of an employee wherein the employee was illegally appointed, irrespective of the fact that the fault in that regard was attributable to the employer.
18. The Supreme Court in its judgment reported as AIR 1953 SC 221 Hoosein Kasam Dada (India) Ltd. v. State of M.P., held that the right to appeal is a valuable substantive right and not a mere procedural adjunct. This right of appeal from the decision of an inferior tribunal to a superior tribunal becomes vested in a party when proceedings are first initiated in, and before a decision is given by, the inferior court.
19. The Supreme Court in its decision reported as (2004) 1 SCC 663 Howrah Municipal Corpn. v. Ganges Rope Co. Ltd., adverted its judicial consideration to jural connotations of ‘vested right’ and ‘settled expectation’. The relevant observations are reproduced hereinunder the nature of ‘public interest’ and ‘convenience’ has held that:
“37 … The word “vest” is normally used where an immediate fixed right in present or future enjoyment in respect of a property is created. With the long usage the said word “vest” has also acquired a meaning as “an absolute or indefeasible right” [see K.J. Aiyer's Judicial Dictionary (A Complete Law Lexicon), 13th Edn.]. The context in which the respondent Company claims a vested right for sanction and which has been accepted by the Division Bench of the High Court, is not a right in relation to “ownership or possession of any property” for which the expression “vest” is generally used. What we can understand from the claim of a “vested right” set up by the respondent Company is that on the basis of the Building Rules, as applicable to their case on the date of making an application for sanction and the fixed period allotted by the Court for its consideration, it had a “legitimate” or “settled expectation” to obtain the sanction. In our considered opinion, such “settled expectation”, if any, did not create any vested right to obtain sanction. True it is, that the respondent Company which can have no control over the manner of processing of application for sanction by the Corporation cannot be blamed for delay but during pendency of its application for sanction, if the State Government, in exercise of its rule-making power, amended the Building Rules and imposed restrictions on the heights of buildings on G.T. Road and other wards, such “settled expectation” has been rendered impossible of fulfillment due to change in law. The claim based on the alleged “vested right” or “settled expectation” cannot be set up against statutory provisions which were brought into force by the State Government by amending the Building Rules and not by the Corporation against whom such “vested right” or “settled expectation” is being sought to be enforced. The “vested right” or “settled expectation” has been nullified not only by the Corporation but also by the State by amending the Building Rules. Besides this, such a “settled expectation” or the so-called “vested right” cannot be countenanced against public interest and convenience which are sought to be served by amendment of the Building Rules and the resolution of the Corporation issued thereupon.”
20. The West Bengal Taxation Tribunal in its judgment reported as (2009) 20 VST 933 (WBTT) K.B. Tea Products Pvt. Ltd. and Anr. Vs. Respondent: Commercial Tax Officer and Ors. pertinently observed:
“40. Meaning and legal implication of vested right are well-known. It is a kind of full and completed right without any reservation or qualification. This concept of unalterable and irrevocable vested right is usually available in private sphere and also against administrative actions of the Executive of the State. But such concept/doctrine of unalterable or untouchable vested right is not available against sovereign legislative actions so long as such legislations do not offend any constitutional right or safeguard. In fact, no right derived from any statutory provision can be said to be vested right in the strict sense of the term inasmuch as it is always open to the Legislature to amend or delete or repeal an existing law having the effect of taking away or affecting a statutory right or privilege. No statutory right can be said to be permanent and it can be modified, withdrawn or rescinded by appropriate enactment. A legal right derived from or under any statutory provision subsists so long as the particular legal provision conferring such right remains unchanged. In the field of public law and in our Constitutional Scheme all rights except fundamental rights can be affected by the Legislature through appropriate legislation. It is also well-settled that all statutory rights or privileges are subject to public interest and legislative changes. Only limitations are that no right can be taken away or curtailed except by law or authority of law and that legislations cannot offend the Constitution. In view of such nature of statutory right and in recognition of legislative supremacy principles of promissory estoppel are not usually made available against Legislature or legislative interventions.
41. It is also well-settled that the Legislature can make retrospective laws to confer, extend, take away or curtail any statutory right. When a statute is expressly made retrospective, it cannot be questioned excepting on grounds of infringement of the Constitution. When Legislature can abolish, withdraw or curtail an existing right retrospectively, it has always the competence and authority to do so prospectively.
42. Not a single case of the Supreme Court has been placed before us where the Supreme Court set aside any legislative enactment withdrawing or curtailing an existing right upon application of the doctrine of vested right. In certain appropriate cases not involving legislative enactments the Supreme Court has applied the doctrine of promissory estoppel and held that the administrative authorities exercising their power or discretion under a statute or statutory rule are bound by their promise and cannot curtail a continuing right except in greater public interest.
43. There is a distinction between an existing right and a vested right. The petitioners herein did have existing right on the date of amendment but such right cannot be treated as "vested right" or immuned from legislative intervention or interference. In Shri Bakul Oil Industries v. State of Gujarat reported in  64 STC 304 the Supreme Court has repelled the contention that tax exemption granted by the State Government gives rise to a vested right. The Supreme Court therein expressed the view that such exemption was a kind of concession and a concession can be withdrawn at any time and "no time-limit can be insisted upon before concession is withdrawn".
46. We have noticed that in some of the decisions expression "vested right" has been used and some observations apparently lend support to applicability of the doctrine of vested interest in cases involving administrative decision or subordinate legislation. It appears to us that even in t
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hose cases the expression "vested right" has been used in a general way to mean "existing right" only. 47. In the decisions relied upon by the petitioner the expression "vested right" has been used in a general sense and none of those decisions really considered whether doctrine of vested right can be applied against legislative enactment.” 21. In the decision reported as 1962(1) SCR 565 Jivabhai Purshottam Vs. Chagan Karson & Ors. the Court was concerned with the impact of the amendment to Section 34 of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948. Sub-section (2-A) was inserted and it came into force on 12th January 1953. Prior thereto Jivabhai had issued a notice to the tenant on 31st December 1951 terminating the tenancy and as per the requirement of Sub-section (1) of Section 34 the notice had to be given at least one year for the tenancy to be determined. But, the noticee gave a longer period and determined the tenancy with effect from 31st March 1953. The amending Act put conditions upon the right of the landlord to terminate the tenancy and thus, Jivabhai’s argument was that a vested right had accrued in his favour when he determined the tenancy on 31st December 1951 and therefore, the amendment made on 12th January 1953 could not take away his vested right. 22. The Court held that mere giving of the notice was not the last step contemplated by law. The last date contemplated by law was the date from which the tenancy would be determined and in said case it was 31st March 1953. Thus, by the time the amendment Act was introduced no right had vested for the reason the landlord was held to be having a vested right when the period of notice had expired and the tenancy had determined. 23. The traditional vested rights Doctrine is based on the principle i.e. State has the power to prescribe the Rules of conduct for transaction or occurrences that take place on its own territory. Once the last event of the transaction or occurrence takes place on the territory of the State the parties to it acquire vested right under Law of that jurisdiction. 24. A future interest is vested if it meets the requirement of there being no condition precedent to the interest. 25. Before formally answering the reference in the instant case, as noted above the development plan was notified on 18.12.1999. Ten years expired on 17.12.2009. Notice under Section 127 was issued on 17.11.2014 and twelve months would come to an end on 16.11.2015, but before that the amendment was made on 29.08.2015 replacing the words `twelve months' by `twenty-four months'. 26. We thus answer the reference by holding that the amendment is prospective but no right is vested in the person having proprietary interest in the land upon serving the notice. The right would have vested upon expiry of one year of the notice had the statute not been amended on 29th August 2015, and thus as on the date of the amendment i.e. 29th August 2015 there was no vested right in favour of the noticee. The rights of the noticee would be governed by the statute as amended on 29th August 2015. 27. The Writ Petition shall now be placed before the appropriate Bench for disposal.