January 16, 2018
Section 24 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (2013 Act) enlists the circumstances under which a land acquisition proceedings is deemed to have been lapsed.
Section 24 (2) of the 2013 Act enumerates that in case of any land acquisition proceeding where no award has been made or where an award has been made 5 years or more prior to the commencement of 2013 Act but physical possession of land has not been taken or the compensation has not been paid then the said land acquisition proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed.
What does Section 24 of the 2013 Act say?
The Supreme Court in the case of Aligarh Development Authority v. Megh Singh & ors elucidated on the law relating to lapse of acquisition proceedings under Section 24 of 2013 Act.
The Apex Court stated that Section 24 of the 2013 Act envisages mainly two situations:
- Where the land acquisition proceedings had already been initiated under the 1894 Act but no award was passed till the date the new Act came into force;
- Where the Award has been passed but neither the owner has been dispossessed nor has he been paid the compensation;
Under the first situation, where the award had not been passed, the acquisition proceedings could continue, but the compensation will have to be determined under the scheme of 2013 Act.
Under the second situation, there is a statutory lapse of the proceedings.
There is also an incidental third situation, where award under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 Act had already been passed prior to coming into force of the 2013 Act, but payment is yet to be made and possession is yet to be taken. In that case, the further proceedings after the award could continue under the old Act of 1894 but if either payment or possession has not taken effect in five years prior to the 2013 Act, then proceedings will lapse.
Essential Ingredients under Section 24(2) of 2013 Act
In the case of Delhi Development Authority v. Sukhbir Singh, the Supreme Court enumerated the essential ingredients for application of Section 24(2) of 2013 Act as under:
- Land acquisition proceedings should have been initiated under the Land Acquisition Act;
- An award under Section 11 should have been made 5 years or more prior to the commencement of the 2013 Act;
- Physical possession of the land, if not taken, or compensation, if not paid, are fatal to the land acquisition proceeding that had been initiated under the Land Acquisition Act;
- The fatality is pronounced by stating that the said proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed, and the appropriate Government, if it so chooses, shall, in this game of snakes and ladders, start all over again”
In view of the aforesaid, the Court held that the two conditions that need to be fulfilled for application of Section 24(2) are:
- That the award must have been made 5 years or more prior to the commencement of the Act; and
- That either compensation has not been paid or physical possession of the land has not been taken by the respondents.
Legislative Intent behind Enactment of Section 24(2) of 2013 Act
In the DDA case, the Supreme Court also explained the legislative intent behind enactment of Section 24(2) of 2013 Act as under:
That the State has no business to expropriate from a citizen his property if an award has been made and the necessary steps to complete acquisition have not been taken for a period of five years or more.
Secondly, the object of Section 24 is that in case an award has been made for five years or more, possession ought to have been taken within this period, or else it is statutorily presumed that the balance between the citizen’s right to retain his own property and the right of the State to expropriate it for a public purpose gets so disturbed as to make the acquisition proceedings lapse. Alternatively, if compensation has not been paid within this period, it is also statutorily presumed that the aforesaid balance gets disturbed so as to free such property from acquisition.
Whether Period of five years under Section 24(2) is absolute?
The Delhi High Court in a recent case was confronted with this question and stated that the Legislature in its wisdom made the period of five years under Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act absolute and unaffected by any delay in the proceedings on account of any order of stay by a court. The plain wordings used by the Legislature are clear and do not create any ambiguity or conflict and in such a situation, the Court is not required to depart from the literal rule of interpretation.
Interpretation of the term “compensation has not been paid” in Section 24(2)
The Supreme Court in the the case of Pune Municipal Corporation and Anr. v. H.M. Solanki, interpreted the term “compensation has not been paid” under Section 24(2) of 2013 Act to hold that the compensation may be said to have been paid within the meaning of Section 24(2) when the Collector has discharged his obligation and deposited the amount of compensation in Court and made that amount available to the interested person.
The impugned provision has been designed to benefit the land owners whose land has been acquired but the actual physical possession has not been taken for more than 5 years, or compensation not paid to them.
In view of the prevalent law and cases as enumerated above, the Land acquisition legislation is an expropriatory legislation. Hence, in view of this expropriation, it is incumbent on the State/appropriate government to timely compensate the landowners and follow the procedure as enumerated under the Law.
 IV (2016) SLT 153
 2016 SCC Online SC 929
 2014 (2) SCC 183
 Ramjas Foundation vs Union of India & Ors., 2017 (DLT SOFT) 465