Day 1 Arguments: 2 April 2019

The matter was briefly heard and listed for 4th April, to give time to the petitioner's counsel to formulate the central questions at hand.

 

A 5 judge Constitution Bench is assessing how government land acquisitions can lapse. Specifically, the Court is interpreting Section 24(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, which states that a land acquisition shall lapse if the relevant government authority fails to pay compensation. The central question is what is meant by 'paid' -- where must the government deposit the compensation? Note that Section 24(2) pertains to land acquisition 'proceedings' initiated uner the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

 

Another key issue the Court must address is with regards to judicial impropriety. In particular, can a Bench invalidate the judgment of a previous Bench of the same strength? Or, must it refer the judgment to the Chief Justice, who will form a larger Bench to assess whether to invalidate the original judgment?

 

A controversy arose last year, February 2018, when a 3 judge Bench in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra invalidated another 3 judge Bench's judgment from Pune Municipal Corporation v. Harakchand Misirmal Solanki (2014). Both cases pertained to Section 24 of the 2013 Act.

 

The current 5 judge Bench hearing the matter comprises Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak GuptaSanjiv KhannaD.Y. Chandrachud and N. V. Ramana.

 

Today's hearing

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta briefly made submissions, framing the central questions before the Court. He began by summarising what the majority and dissenting opinions held in Indore Development Authority (2018). Then he formulated a series of questions, including: how ought one interpret the terms 'paid' and 'tender' in Section 24 of the 2013 Act; does 'paid' in S.24(2) imply 'deposit in the court'?

 

The Bench stated that it would not give the Solicitor General time to formulate questions. At this point, the SG asked the Bench for more time.

 

The Bench ordered the Solicitor General to file his questions with the Registrar by 4pm tomorrow, 3rd April. It also listed the matter for Thursday, 4th April.


(Court reporting by Abhishek Sankritik)