Day 12: 3 December 2019
Much like in the last day of hearing, multiple counsels made their submissions today as well – with Senior Advocates Dinesh Dwivedi and Dhruv Mehta concluding their arguments from the previous day. The arguments today too were focused on interpretational questions related to Section 24 of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
Sr.Advs.Dwiwedi and Mehta conclude
Sr.Adv. Dwivedi submitted that the expression ‘or’ appearing in Section 24(2) may assume two meanings – in some contexts, it may be read as ‘or’ and in some others as ‘and’. The Bench though directed him to submit relevant case laws to substantiate this argument.
Thereafter, Sr. Advocate Dhruv Mehta submitted that Section 24(2) shall be applicable if physical possession had not been taken. In such a scenario, State shall have to begin the acquisition afresh, submitted Sr.Adv.Mehta and not merely pay enhanced compensation. He pointed out that a plain reading of the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the 2013 Act contemplates this and given this, it is clear that the Parliament intended to confer such a benefit upon the land owners.
Arguments on beneficial nature of the 2013 Act, its applicability and interpretation of proviso
As many as 13 counsels made their submissions during the course of the day after Senior Advocates Dwiwedi and Mehta finished their arguments. Their arguments primarily touched upon how the 2013 Act was a beneficial legislation, the extent of applicability of the new Act to acquisition proceedings, and interpretation of the proviso.
Benefits of 2013 Act: Sr. Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan sought to make submissions on 8 different issues. Nevertheless, he was only allowed to submit on two of them as the Bench felt that the rest were repetitive.
He submitted that the new Act had benefitted those sections of the society which the Parliament had intended to benefit. Of those, he contended that a substantially large portion of the beneficiaries were small scale agrarian farmers and tribals who had been displaced from their lands. Therefore, he submitted that ‘or’ appearing in Section 24(2) must be read as “or” itself.
Secondly, he submitted that for tendering of payment, a deposit of payment in the bank account of the beneficiary was necessary.
Interpretation of the proviso: On the proviso, Senior Advocate Radhakrishnan made a brief submission and stated that the proviso was to be read in order to differentiate between proceedings which may lapse and those which may not, but will only be eligible for enhanced compensation.
Separately, another advocate submitted that the proviso must be interpreted independently of the main provision and stated that he had prepared a schematic representation of 5 independent classes of events and their possible outcomes under the old and the new Act.
Applicability of the new Act: An Advocate briefly apprised the bench of the judgment in Tukaram Joshi v. MIDC in order to assert that the new Act will apply even if the acquisition proceedings had taken place years ago.
On the applicability of the new Act, Dr. Surat Singh appearing on behalf of farmers dispossessed of their land in Lutyens Delhi (stretching between Raisina Hill and the Supreme Court in Delhi) back in 1912, submitted that appropriate compensation must be paid to them in terms of the new Act as they were now eligible for higher compensation. He submitted that a fresh cause of action had arisen as soon as the new Act came into effect. He further argued that no limitation for claiming higher compensation under the new Act had been laid down and his clients were eligible for approximately Rs.15,000 crore or more.
Thereafter, Sr.Adv. Nakul Dewan began his submissions. He contended that Section 24(1)(b) must be read first and Section 24(1)(a) thereafter. He reiterated that Section 24(2) provided for deemed lapsing of an award, which had been made 5 years or prior to the date of commencement of the new Act. He submitted that “or” should be read as “or” itself and in cases of non-utilization of land, no deemed physical possession could have been made.
Mode of possession: Advocate KK Trivedi submitted that the manner and mode of taking possession shall also be an important determinant while seeking higher compensation under the new Act.
De-tagging: Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta submitted that the particular case in which he was appearing had no nexus to the present batch of matters. He therefore prayed that his case be de-tagged from the others and heard separately.
Lastly, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave argued that acquisition proceedings could not be completed without first completing all formalities, including taking of possession and awarding compensation.
The Bench then suggested that he answer specific queries in relation to the application of the proviso tomorrow.
(Court reporting by Sanya Talwar)