The Original Owner Has No Right to Seek the Restoration of the Land, Once Vested With the State – Madras High Court

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Excerpt

Recently, Madras HC held that once the land has been acquired by the State and compensation has been given to the claimant, the claimants are not entitled to restoration of property on the grounds that either the primary public objective has ceased to exist or the land cannot be utilized for any other purpose.

Facts of the case 

The petitioner claimed that her father-in-law owned the 7.68-acre land located in Nagamangalam village. This site, along with others, was sought to build a Law College. The Notification was then issued in 1982, using the Urgency Clause of Section 17 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 by the government. And certainly, after some time, the award was given to the petitioner’s father-in-law for Rs.37,405/- in exchange for the land.

However, after that, the Government decided to withdraw from the process of acquisition of lands except the petitioner’s father-in-law’s land. Since 1991, the petitioner’s father-in-law had been pursuing the reconveyance of the 7.68-acre property.

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In 2012, the petitioner had filed a writ petition before the court, where the court held that the government had not been justified in using the urgency provisions and directed the state to take additional action. However, the government took no further action, leading to this current petition seeking reconveyance of the property under section 48(B) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1984.

Petitioner’s Arguments 

The petitioner argued that the reports submitted by the Sub Collector, Principal of the Government Law College, Tiruchirappalli District Collector and Commissioner of Land Administration clearly showed that no one was against the reconveyance and that they were all in favour of it.

The land was not even required for the construction of the Government Law College Hostel, according to the Government’s letter in 2007, and in addition to that, the petitioner’s spouse was advised to contact the District Collector for the reconveyance.

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But due to the absence of progress, when the petitioner reached this Court for direction in 2012, only then that the respondent issued the impugned order on 13.01.2014, stating that the property will be needed for the allocation of ‘House Site Patta’ to persons belonging to the Backward Community (B.C.) and Most Backward Community (M.B.C.) and therefore cannot be given back to them. 

Hence, the petitioner contended that the court must direct the respondent, according to the previous order, to transfer the land to the petitioner as per section 48 of the given act. 

Respondent’s Argument 

The counsel representing the respondent argued that the petitioner had no legal right to demand that the land be returned to her. He claimed that as per sec 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the land acquired by the government can only be transferred to its original owner if the government is satisfied that the land is not required for the initial purpose or any other public purpose.

However, in the present scenario, the land had already been used for public use as the property was being transferred to the stated backward classes department. Therefore, the property was needed for other public uses and returning it to the landowner is not an option.

Court’s Observation

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The court analysed the scope and ambit of the section 48-B of the Act and observed that this section of the Land Acquisition Act of 1984 (for reconveyance of the property) was included as an exception in the state of Tamil Nadu, and it has been repeatedly ruled that this provision must be carefully read, with strict adherence to its terms required. 

And before deciding on reconveyance, the government must be satisfied that the land is not needed not just for the reason for which it was acquired, but also for any other public purposes. Hence, the original owner has no lawful entitlement to demand the government or the authorities to return the land or has no legal right to claim the same. 

Court’s decision 

After observing all the details of the case, the Court found that the petitioner had no legal right to claim reconveyance of the land since the respondent had already begun to utilise the land for public purposes. And therefore, did not issue a mandamus and dismissed the writ petition. 

 

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