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SC refers land acquisition matter to CJI for deciding appropriate bench

The matter pertains to a February 8 verdict passed by another three-judge bench of the Supreme Court which had held that compensation not availed within a stipulated five-year period would not be a ground for cancellation of land acquisition.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2018 23:39 IST
HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CJI,SC,Land acquisition
The three-judge bench had observed that if “judicial discipline” and propriety were not maintained, the institution will “go forever” while referring to the February 8 verdict.(HT File Photo)

Two benches of the Supreme Court asked the Chief Justice of India to constitute a larger bench to settle differences over a judgment on land acquisition that has caused some consternation in the country’s top court.

The two benches, one comprising Justices AK Mishra and AK Roy and another of AK Goel and UU Lalit, were hearing land acquisition cases from Haryana and Madhya Pradesh respectively but said that the larger issue has to be resolved by a “larger bench”.

Mishra, Goel and Justice MM Shantanagoudar gave a ruling on February 8 that sets a precedent in favour of the government in land acquisition cases. Their order overturned one by another three-judge bench in 2014. On Wednesday, a three-judge bench headed by Justice MB Lokur effectively stayed the February 8 order in an interim ruling, reasoning that one three-judge bench should not be overturning orders by another three-judge one. It also asked all high courts and benches of the supreme Court hearing land acquisition cases to disregard the February 8 precedent.

At the core of the issue is a 2014 judgment by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a case involving the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). That ruling said land acquisition would be considered void if the compensation to the people from whom the land was being acquired was not deposited in their bank accounts or with the courts.

Some people refuse to surrender their land and do not take the compensation amount.

Despite over 20 decisions that followed the principles evolved in that case, the bench of Justices Misra, Goel and Justice MM Shantagoudar overturned this ruling on 8 February -- its logic was that once the amount had been offered as compensation, it would be taken as paid under the provisions of the land acquisition law of 2013, even if the land owner refused the amount.

Justice Misra has since then decided over 60 land acquisition cases, while relying on his judgement. This was pointed out on Wednesday before Justice Lokur’s court, while it was hearing a land acquisition case from Haryana, prompting it to “request” the courts to not to give final orders in such matters.

“We are only concerned with judicial discipline,” Justice Joseph had said then, adding if Justice Mishra’s bench disagreed with the view taken in the PMC case, then it should have referred the issue to a larger bench.

“We do not mind our order being set aside. It is for the CJI to decide which bench should hear it,” Justice Misra commented in response to the day-old order.

“Whether it amounts to judicial discipline or not, it is for the court to see,” his bench added.

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 20:14 IST