Land Acquisition; R. Rajashekar Vs. Trinity House Building Co-operative Society [Supreme Court of India, 15-09-2016]

Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – Section 24(1)(a) – Land Acquisition Act, 1894 – Sections 4(1) and 6(1) – Held, the acquisition proceedings in the instant case cannot be said to be one for ‘public purpose’ as defined under Section 3 (f) (vi) of the L.A. Act, especially in the light of the fact that not only was there no scheme formulated by the respondent-Society and approved by the State Government for the said purpose before initiating the acquisition proceedings, but that the evidence on record clearly indicates that the respondent-Society paid consideration to Mr. S. Rangarajan to act as the agent between it and the state government, to ensure that the lands of the original land owners are acquired in its favour. Upholding such an acquisition would be akin to approving to such type of agreements which are opposed to public policy and the same cannot be allowed by this Court under any circumstances, as the concept of hiring middlemen to get lands of the poor agricultural workers acquired by the state government in favour of a Cooperative Society is abhorrent and cannot be granted the sanction of law.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

[V.GOPALA GOWDA] AND [ADARSH KUMAR GOEL] JJ.

September 15, 2016

CIVIL APPEAL NOS.9091-9119 OF 2016 (Arising Out of SLP (C) Nos. 13656-13684 of 2004) R. RAJASHEKAR AND ORS. …APPELLANTS Vs. TRINITY HOUSE BUILDING CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY AND ORS. …RESPONDENTS WITH CIVIL APPEAL NOS.9120-9148 OF 2016 (Arising Out of SLP (C) Nos.18090-18118 of 2004) AND CIVIL APPEAL NOS.9149-9152 OF 2016 (Arising Out of SLP (C) Nos.23336-23339 of 2004)

For Petitioner(s) Mr. R.S. Hegde, Adv. Mrs. Farhat Jahan Rehmani, Adv. Mr. Shanti Prakash, Adv. Mr. Rajeev Singh,Adv. Mr. Basava Prabhu Patil, Sr. Adv. Mr. Anirudh Sanganeria, Adv. Mr. Chinmay Deshpande, Adv. Mr. Amjid Maqbool, Adv. Mr. A. S. Bhasme,Adv. For Respondent(s) Mr. E. C. Vidya Sagar,Adv. Mr. Kartik Seth, Adv. Mr. Subhash Chandra Sagar, Adv. Ms. Jennifer John, Adv. Mr. Irshad Ahmad,Adv. Mr. V. N. Raghupathy,Adv. Mr. Kunal Verma,Adv. Ms. Yugandhara P. Jha, Adv. Mr. Prasanna Mohan, Adv. Mr. Pulkit Tare, Adv. Ms. Ruchi Sahay, Adv.

J U D G M E N T

V. GOPALA GOWDA, J.

Leave granted in all the Special Leave Petitions.

2. The present appeals arise out of the common impugned judgment and order dated 06.05.2004 in Writ Appeal Nos. 7543-7557 of 1996 and connected matters passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Karnataka, wherein the judgment and order dated 12.07.1996, passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court in Writ Petition Nos. 8188-8201 of 1989 and other connected petitions quashing the acquisition notifications issued under

Sections 4(1) and 6(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894

(hereinafter referred to as the “L.A. Act”) was set aside.

3. The relevant facts which are required for us to appreciate the rival legal contentions advanced on behalf of the parties are stated in brief hereunder:

The lands involved in all these acquisition proceedings are agricultural lands belonging to poor agriculturalists. On 09.01.1984, Trinity House Building Co-Operative Society (hereinafter referred to as the “respondent-Society”) was registered with the object of providing sites for building residential houses for its members. On 12.03.1985, the said society, represented by its President and Vice President entered into an agreement with M/S Srinivasa Enterprises, represented by its proprietor, Mr. S. Rangarajan. The said agreement was entered into between the parties essentially for getting the lands acquired in favour of the respondent-Society. The relevant clauses of the agreement will be extracted in the reasoning portion of the judgment. As per the agreement, a contract of agency was created in favour of Mr. S. Rangarajan to act as a middleman between the respondent-Society and the State Government to get the lands mentioned therein acquired in favour of the respondent-Society.

4. It is also an undisputed fact that between 06.05.1987 and 12.06.1989, the land owners of the lands mentioned in the agreement dated 12.03.1985 have also executed power of attorney(s) in favour of Mr. S. Rangarajan. The state government of Karnataka by its order dated 23.06.1986, fixed the last date as 30.06.1984 for the registration of the societies. The respondent-Society finds a place at Serial No. 43 in the annexure attached to the above government order.

5. By way of order dated 30.04.1987, the state government of Karnataka constituted a ‘Three Men Committee’ to verify the claims of land for acquisition being made by the various societies, and a State level Co-ordination Committee also was constituted by the Government to inquire into the affairs of the society before recommending their claim for acquisition.

6. The case of the respondent-Society came up for consideration before the State Level Coordination Committee on 25.09.1987. The State Level Coordination Committee, without application of mind to the facts of the case, cleared the case of the respondent-Society for acquisition of lands in its favour. The relevant portion pertaining to the Society reads thus:

“14. Trinity HBSC: Avalahalli and Herohalli (correct name Harohalli) villages, cleared for acquisition of 94-18 acres, Avalahalli (73-33 Acres) and Herohalli (22-25 acres)(both in Yelahanka Bobli) (Action: Revenue Department)”

On 10.03.1988, the Additional Registrar of Co-Operative Societies, Bangalore passed an order under Section 64 of the Karnataka Co-operative Societies Act, 1959, to inquire into certain allegations made against 98 House Building Co-Operative Societies of Bangalore City, including the respondent-Society, and appointed Sri G.V.K. Rao, the then Controller of Weights and Measures to investigate into the allegations of irregularities and malpractices against the concerned societies.

7. In the meanwhile, on 15.04.1988, an agreement was entered into between the state government of Karnataka and the respondent-Society as required under Section 39 read with Section 41 of Part VII of the L.A. Act. The relevant portions of the Agreement are extracted hereunder:

“AND WHEREAS THE SOCIETY has applied to the Government of Karnataka (hereinafter referred to as “THE GOVERNMENT” that certain land more particularly described in the schedule hereto annexed and hereinafter referred to as “THE SAID LAND” should be acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (I of 1894) hereinafter referred to as “the said Act” for the following purpose namely: Formation of sites and construction of houses to the members of the trinity House Building Co-Operative Society Ltd. at Avalahalli and Herohalli, Yelahanka hobli, Bangalore North Taluk, Bangalore District. AND WHEREAS the Government having caused an inquiry to be made in conformity with the provisions of the said Act and being satisfied as a result of such inquiry that the acquisition of the said land is needed for the purpose.”

8. Subsequently, on 09.05.1988, the report of the G.V.K. Rao Committee was submitted to the Government for its action. The Report found irregularities in the manner in which the respondent-Society has granted membership to its members. It was stated in the report that the Vice President of the respondent-Society accepted these lapses and even attempted to justify the same.

9. Even after the G.V.K. Rao Committee submitted its report, the state government of Karnataka proceeded to issue the preliminary notification under Section 4(1) of the L.A. Act, which was published in the official gazette dated 09.06.1988, proposing to acquire the lands in question to the extent of 92 acres 38 guntas in Avalahalli and Herohalli villages of Yelahanka Hobli, Bangalore North Taluk, Bangalore District in favour of the respondent-Society.

10. Subsequently, around 33 Objection Petitions were filed before the Land Acquisition Officer by the landowners, which were all rejected under the inquiry conducted by him under Section 5-A(2) of the L.A. Act. The objections filed by some of the landowners were rejected by land acquisition officer primarily on the ground that the objections are not valid, and that the concerned lands come in the middle of the layout and that the lands are being acquired for the formation of house sites by the respondent society, which is a public purpose as per the definition of Section 3 (f) (vi) of the L.A. Act. On 18.03.1999, the state government issued the final notification under Section 6(1) of the L.A. Act declaring that the lands were required for public purpose without proper application of mind to the report received from the Land Acquisition Officer. The relevant portion of the notification is extracted hereunder: