The Supreme Court has held that the Government, after acquiring a private land, has the right to determine the use of the land in any manner and the aggrieved land owner cannot question its action.
In other words, if the authorities acquire a private land for a housing colony and later uses it for some other cause, the land owner cannot insist that the land should be returned back to him since the original purpose has not been complied with, the apex court said in a recent judgement.
"Once the land is acquired, it vests in the State free from all encumbrances. It is not the concern of the land owner how his land is used and whether the land is being used for the purpose for which it was acquired or for any other purpose.
"He becomes persona non grata once the land vests in the State. He has a right to get compensation only for the same. The person interested cannot claim the right of restoration of land on any ground, whatsoever," a bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan said.
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Sulochana Chandrakant Galande who sought restoration of her land acquired by the Maharashtra Government for the Pune Municipal Transport Corporation in 1978 for setting up a staff quarters.
Though the corporation took possession of the land for setting up a housing colony it later constructed a bus depot at the site.
In 1998 Galande moved the State authorities and sought restoration of the land on the ground that there was change of land use.
Surprisingly, the Government using its revisional powers also acceded to her request. The corporation moved the Bombay High Court which set aside the Government's order, following which Galande approached the apex court.
Dismissing her appeal, the apex court said "the land once vested in the State cannot be divested. Once the land is vested in the State it has a right to change the user."
The apex court also expressed surprise at the manner in which the Government exercised its revisional powers and acceded to the request of the land owner 20 years after the acquisition, though no limitation is fixed under the Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976 for exercising the power.
"It does not mean that the legislature intended to leave the orders passed under the Act open to variation for an indefinite period inasmuch as it would have the effect of rendering title of the holders/allottee(s) permanently precarious and in a state of perpetual uncertainty.
"In case, it is assumed that the legislature has conferred an everlasting and interminable power in point of time, the title over the declared surplus land, in the hands of the State/allottee, would forever remain virtually insecure," the bench said, while dismissing the appeal.