Day 1 ArgumentsLand Acquisition
April 2nd 2019
The matter was briefly heard and listed for April 4th, to give time to the petitioner’s counsel to formulate the central questions at hand.
A five 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 under 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 three judge Bench in Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra invalidated another three judge Bench’s judgment from Pune Municipal Corporation v. Harakchand Misirmal Solanki (2014). Both cases pertained to Section 24 of the 2013 Act.
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, April 3rd. It also listed the matter for Thursday, April 4th.
(Court reporting by Abhishek Sankritik)