In a society governed by rule of law, there should not be arbitrariness in any decision: Bombay High Court

It is expected from the State and Central authorities to respect rights of petitioners and follow due procedure of law when property is likely to be acquired. The respondents/authorities are certainly required to adhere to the rule of law, held, a division bench of S.V. GANGAPURWALA AND SHRIKANT D. KULKARNI, JJ; while adjudicating the matter in BHAGAUJI NATHAJI MAIND AND OTHERS Vs THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA AND OTHERS; [WRIT PETITION NO. 5250 OF 2020].

The petitioners are resident of different villages situated in Taluka Jalna and Ambad, District Jalna. They own agricultural lands adjacent to National Highway No. 753H (previously known as State Highway No. 176). According to the petitioners, in their agricultural lands, they have their residential houses, wells, fruit trees, bore-well etc. which are also adjacent to the National Highway No. 753H. The road in question was a small road earlier and it came to be converted into State Highway without payment of any compensation to the petitioners while expansion of State Highway. It is the stand of the petitioners that the existing width of the road is about 12 meters. The respondents have recently issued a letter of award and started expansion of the road/up-gradation of the road to 30 meters without acquisition of land. The respondents are trying to take forcible possession of the lands of the petitioners. The respondent-authorities have cautioned to the petitioners even to use police force while taking possession. The petitioners have made it clear that they are not opposing for the road widening/up-gradation of road in question but the authority should acquire their respective lands for up-gradation of the roads as per due procedure of law. The authorities while converting the small road into said Highway No. 176, not initiated acquisition proceeding and thereby deprived of compensation of their lands which were acquired. The respondents have started up-gradation of the road in question from Sillod to Wadigodri in a phase-wise manner. The petitioners are concerned with the phase of Dhangar Pimpri to Wadigodri for which the authorities are attempting to take the forceful possession of their lands under the pretext of resolution regarding adjacent lands of road which need not require acquisition. The stand taken by the authorities is not genuine.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts stated that; “There is no conclusive proof on record to establish that the width of the road which passes through villages, Shahapur, Dadegaon, Dhakalgaon and Math Tanda is 30 meters, and there is no question of acquiring lands of adjacent land owners/petitioners. In order to strike a balance, and to resolve the issue of width of the road, it is necessary to have joint measurement of the road which passes through above said villages. Certainly, that exercise of measurement of road shall be in presence of petitioners and the respondents/authorities. If that exercise of measurement of roads in respect of the above said villages is exercised through appropriate agency under the supervision of the District Collector, Jalna, that would resolve the dispute completely. There may not be any injustice to either side if that exercise is made. On the other hand, it would facilitate both the sides to resolve the dispute regarding the width of the road in a smooth way.”

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