CS asked to take action against officers
SRINAGAR, Feb 15: The High Court today directed for awarding compensation to the land owners for land acquired 24 years ago in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district with the direction to Chief Secretary to take strict action against those officers involved in delay in passing the final award for acquisition process.
The petitioners who are residents of village Kanli Bagh, Baramulla approached the Court for the quashing of the entire acquisition proceedings in respect of about 150 kanals and 3 marlas of the land which was notified for acquisition for the public purpose of establishing a Housing Colony at Sangri in Baramulla with the prayer that the tentative award passed in 17.03.1998 be also quashed and fresh acquisition proceedings initiated for the land in question so as to pay them compensation as per the prevailing market rate.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar while refusing to the acquisition process directed authorities to frame and pronounce the final award in respect of the 24 year old acquisition process in accordance with the existing law within a period of three months from the date a copy of this order is produced before the Chief Secretary.
“We hope that the Chief Secretary under whom all the departments of the State function, would take positive action in the matter and see to it that the award as directed is passed and strict action is taken against all those officers, who were involved and responsible for not allowing the award to be passed immediately after the tentative award had been prepared and announced”, the DB directed.
Court, however, said that the villagers may not be entitled to any of the reliefs specifically claimed by them in present writ petition, nonetheless, in view of the residuary prayer to grant any other relief that may be deemed fit and suitable for the court.
The court, the DB said, is left with no option but to make the interim mandamus absolute by issuing a writ in the nature of mandamus commanding the State authorities to frame and pronounce the final award in respect of the above acquisition in accordance with the existing law.
“The villagers would be entitled to and paid compensation according to the final award along with all statutory benefits including the interest within a period of one month of the pronouncement of the final award after adjusting the amount which had already been paid to them under the tentative award” the DB said adding. “The writ petition is allowed with exemplary costs of Rs 10 lakhs for dragging the villagers in unnecessary litigation for decades and for depriving them of their property without adequately compensating them for such a long period”.
Court noted that the right to possess and occupy land or property used to be a fundamental right and is still a Constitutional right akin to a fundamental right and it has been recognized even as a basic human right. “In view of Article 300 A of the Constitution of India, no person can be deprived of his property otherwise by following the due process of law. Therefore, the non- payment of the compensation as provided under the statutes amounts to depriving the person of his right to the property”, read the judgment.
The respondent-authorities court said, cannot deprive the land holders from the right to receive fair and reasonable compensation for their acquired land indefinitely by not making a final award. “It is for this reason that the court while disposing of the earlier writ petition of the petitioners instead of directing to initiate fresh acquisition proceedings and for payment of compensation @ 5 lakhs to 6 lakhs per kanal as prayed therein, directed that the respondents would look into the matter and would act in accordance with the mandate of statutes so as to take a final decision within a time bound period.
Court while expressing its concern over lackadiaskal approach of authorities in delaying compensation to rightful owners said it is an alarming situation that State is acquiring private land without payment of full compensation. This kind of action or omission court said, on the part of the State authorities is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue for an indefinite period. “We deprecate such practice and expect that the State would henceforth take all possible measures to ensure passing of an award within a reasonable time and payment of fair compensation to the persons interested where ever the land is acquired.