Reference Court under Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is duty bound to hear beneficiary of acquisition

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Krishna S. Dixit, J. while hearing a civil writ petition, quashed Reference Court’s order under Land Acquisition Act, 1894 enhancing compensation payable to land owners without affording a hearing to the beneficiary of acquisition.

Petitioner, a beneficiary of land acquisition, challenged the judgment and award made by Reference Court whereby compensation paid to land owners was enhanced without hearing the petitioner. Respondent resisted this petition on the ground that petitioner had an alternate and equally efficacious remedy of statutory appeal and therefore it should be relegated to the same.

The questions to be determined were: (i) whether a beneficiary of land acquisition is entitled to hearing by Reference Court, regardless of him being party to the proceedings or not; and (ii) maintainability of a writ petition against an order of Reference Court in the presence of alternate remedy of statutory appeal under Section 54 of the Act.

The Court opined that as per Section 20(2)(c) of the Karnataka Amendment to the Act, a Reference Court is obliged to hear the beneficiary of acquisition. The same was also a necessary requirement of the principles of natural justice.

In relation to the second question, relying on the dictum of Apex Court in Neyvely Lignite Corporation Limited v. Special Tahsildar (Land Acquisition) Neyvely, (1995) 1 SCC 221 it was held that in a proceeding seeking enhancement of compensation, if the land owner has not taken steps to implead beneficiary, then in such a case it was just and necessary that the Reference Court impleads beneficiary of acquisition. This would avoid multiplicity of proceedings in the form of writ petitions and statutory appeals.

In view of the above, the petition was partly allowed and the matter was remanded to Reference Court for fresh consideration after hearing the beneficiaries.[Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board v. Byregowda, WP No. 55485 of 2017, Order dated 20-11-2018]

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