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The award passed by a land acquisition officer is to be treated as an ‘offer’: Madras High Court

The award of the Land Acquisition Officer, is nothing more than an offer. It is open to the person whose lands are being acquired to accept that offer or he may not accept that offer and claim a reference to the Court. This was held by the Hon’ble Justice C. V. Karthikeyan in the case of N. Venugopal and Ors. Vs. The District Collector and Ors. [W.P.No. 18130 of 2020] on 25th August 2021, before the Hon’ble High Court of Madras at Chennai.

The brief facts of the case are, the lands measuring to an extent of 28104 sq.mts in S.No. 1587/1A etc., in Sriperumbudur Village, were acquired for widening of the existing road from Singaperumal Koil to Sriperumbudur Road. Notification under Section 15(2) of Tamil Nadu Highways Act 2001 was published in the Newspaper on 26.08.2009. Thereafter, notification under Section 15(1) of the said Act was published in Tamil Nadu Government Gazette on 02.06.2010. The Government then issued orders in G.O.Ms.No. 143, Highways Department dated 13.08.2012 reducing the width of the road from 60 mts to 50 mts. Consequently, the area under acquisition was reduced to 26416 sq.mts. A further notification under Section 15(2) of the said Act was issued on 12.05.2015. The writ petitioners herein received notices for payment of compensation for the lands acquired from each one of them as contemplated under Section 19(2) of the Act. The present petitions have been filed in the nature of Certiorarified Mandamus to quash the common Award No. 1 of 2020 dated 31.10.2020 passed by the first respondent with respect to the acquisition of lands belonging to the petitioners herein in Sriperumbudur Village and Taluk, in Kancheepuram District and the communication dated 06.11.2020 in Na.Ka.No. 10/2010/A issued by the third respondent.

The counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioners had been served only an extract of the common award passed by the first respondent. This extract contained only the calculation portion. The basis or the reasoning for arriving at such calculation had not been served on the petitioners herein. The petitioners are not at all aware as to how and on what basis the award had been arrived at. The learned counsel therefore stated that the petitioners could not seek a reference to the Court for further determination of the award. The counsel for the respondents submitted that, the petitioners have been served with an extract of the award for the lands acquired from each one of them. This calculation statement according to the learned counsel was self-explanatory and contained all the details which are required for determining the award amount. The learned counsel pointed out that a reference to the Court should have been made by the petitioners and they could have vented their grievances before the said jurisdictional Court. It has also been stated that some of the writ petitioners had also accepted to receive the award amount and had given that fact in writing. It had therefore been stated that the petitioners having accepted the award, the present writ petitions cannot be maintained. It had also been stated that after the award had been passed, the petitioners should approach the competent authority to raise grievances against the award and that the writ petitions are not maintainable.

The learned judge heard the submissions of both the parties and observed that The normal procedure to be adopted next if the award is not acceptable is to seek reference to the Court for further determination of the award. The petitioners have not taken up that course but have rather filed the present writ petitions. The judgement in Special Land Acquisition Officer v. Trustees of the Will of A.H. Wadia, reported in 1956 SCC OnLine Bom 141 : (1956) 58 Bom LR 766 was relied on, wherein it was held that, “The award of the Land Acquisition Officer, as has often been said, is nothing more than an offer. It is open to the person whose lands are being acquired to accept that offer or he may not accept that offer and claim a reference to the Court. By claiming a reference to the Court and going to the Court he challenges the fairness of the compensation offered by the Land Acquisition Officer in his award, and to the extent that he challenges the award he is in the position of a plaintiff and the burden is upon him to satisfy the Court that the award made is not a proper or a fair award.” The learned judge also held that the entire award must be served to enable the person whose lands had been acquired to take a decision to either accept the offer or claim a reference to the Court and all petitioners are entitled to for the same. The writ petition was dismissed.

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