Under Sec.48, Land acquisition proceedings can be withdrawn – when the possession was not taken over

36 (1)The State Government issued a notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 for acquiring land for the purpose of widening of a road.  In that regard necessary notification under Section 6 of the Act was also issued.  The award was made and the compensation was determined.  The process for acquisition was completed by taking possession of the land and by depositing of the compensation with the Court. 

After completing the process of land acquisition the land-owners requested for withdrawal of acquisition. In response to the said representation Govt. withdrew the acquisition.  This order of withdrawal of acquisition proceedings was subsequently cancelled.

The Govt. order for cancellation of the withdrawal of land acquisition was challenged by the land owners in the Writ Petition and the said petition was disposed of with the direction to the authorities to reconsider the issue regarding acquisition of the land in question.  In pursuance to High Court Order, Land owners made representation to the Govt. and Govt. withdrew the acquisition and directed the collector to return the land to the land-owners, but the said order was again cancelled.  Land owner again made representation.

Orders for withdrawal of acquisition were again passed and were cancelled again.  Lastly in writ appeal High Court directed the authorities to handover – return the possession to the land owners.

Being aggrieved with the order of the High Court VUDA and State filed appeals before the Apex Court.

The Apex Court observed that when the possession of the land was taken over and the Govt. wanted the acquisition to be cancelled, it could not have been done in view of the provisions of Section 48 of the Act as every time, when the authorities decided to withdraw the acquisition proceedings, power under section 48 of the Act was exercised but the said powers under sec.48 of theAct cold not have been exercised as powers u/s 48 can be exercised only when the possession was not taken over.

Apex Court opined that sec.48(1) of the Act does not permit the withdrawal of acquisition proceedings of any land if possession of the land is taken over.

The Apex Court disposed of the appeal by holding that the acquisition proceedings could not have been quashed by the High Court, especially when the Govt. had not acted in accordance with law while withdrawing the land in question from the acquisition proceedings.

With the above said findings, Apex Court allowed the appeals and set aside the judgment of the High Court and simultaneously disposed of the land owner’s contempt petition by observing that it does not survive any more.

Held in  Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority  Vs. S.S. Naidu & Ors.

SOURCE: Online Legal Opinion 

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