–Report by Arun Bhattacharya
A nearly two-decade-old issue of landowners who have been divested from their lands for the construction of Express Highway was relieved on receiving orders regarding due compensation by the hon’ble Supreme Court of India on Wednesday (15th February 2023) in the matter of RAVINDER KUMAR GOEL versus THE STATE OF HARYANA & ORS.
A certain extent of 798 Kanals and 2 Marlas of land were acquired by the Haryana Government Industries Department in 2005 due to the construction of Express highway Phase VII which would connect National Highway numbers 1,10,8 and 2. The District Revenue cum Land Acquisition Collector had declared an amount of approximately twelve lakh rupees per acre for the said lands. On seeking reference from the Reference Court, they were given a consideration of approximately forty-three lakh rupees per acre which was again enhanced by the High Court to nearly sixty-two lakh rupees per acre amount.
Both the landowners and the State had filed appeals before the apex court under the title Surender Singh v. State of Haryana whereby the matters were remanded back to the Reference court which after further consideration revalued the amount of compensation to approximately twenty-two lakh rupees per acre. Appeals by both parties were again filed before the High Court which rectified the amount again to nearly fourteen lakh rupees per acre. On such occasion, the land losers filed another appeal to the apex court with the demand for further rectification of the said compensation value.
The appellants primarily contended the fact that the lands which were under consideration were part of an urban agglomeration and had served purposes other than merely agricultural and hence the determination of compensation on such lands assuming them to be purely agricultural would be faulty. They also highlighted their grievance regarding the Reference Court’s decision to deduction of 35 per cent as development charges. They argued that since the purpose of such acquisition was for the construction of roadways hence such acquisitions must be treated as sale deeds and compensation thereby must be determined in compliance with their market values.
The Reference Court had relied upon certain Exemplars which were in connection to lands which amounted to 798 Kanals 2 Marlas while determining the compensation in the present case. This was pointed out to be unjustified due to the non-representation of the true value of such lands. They further pointed out that the Land Acquisition Officer was correct in his determination of compensation since he had relied upon nine sale Exemplars during the very same period wherein large extents of agricultural lands were sold and per acre value for those said transactions were lower than what was determined by the LAO.
The hon’ble apex court did an in-depth analysis of the contentions of both parties, relied upon different judgments like State of Gujarat vs. Kakhot SinghJi VajesinghJi Vaghela observed that “the principle that the price agreed between a willing seller and a willing purchaser would be the price which is generally prevailing in the market in respect of the lands having similar advantages which can be the basis to determine the market value of acquired lands if such sale instances are brought on record.” Considering all the valid points referred by the Reference Court, the apex court stated that since the purpose of such acquisition was the construction of roadways, it is prudent that development charges are bound to occur and declared that twenty-five per cent of charges must be paid in accordance to development cost which resulted in a deduction of nearly eight lakh rupees from the initial thirty-three lakhs. Thus the final amount to be paid in compensation was calculated to be twenty-five lakhs per acre approximately by the apex court concluding a nearly two-decades-long litigation.
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