06 August 1996
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (civil) 2298 of 1981






DATE OF JUDGMENT:       06/08/1996


CITATION:  JT 1996 (7)   301        1996 SCALE  (6)29



JUDGMENT:                             With                  C.A.Nos. 2299, 2300-01/81.                          O R D E R      These appeals  by special leave arise from the judgment of the  Division Bench of the Delhi High Court dated October 10, 1978  made in  L.P.A. No.115/75  and batch. The Division Bench consisting  of Hon’ble  Chief Justice T.V.R. Tatachari and Hon’ble  Justice S.  Ranganathan, as  they then were, in elaborate judgment  rendered by  the later  running into 129 pages, considered threadbare two questions of law raised for considerations namely,  the  validity  of  the  notification under Section  4(1) and  declaration under  Section 6 of the Land Acquisition  Act 1  of  1894  (for  short,  the  ‘Act’) acquiring an  extent of  3470 acres  in Naraina  village for purpose, viz.,  "Planned Development of Delhi" and secondly, whether the substance of the notification under Section 4(1) was published in the locality as envisaged under sub-section (1) of  Section 4 of the Act. The learned Judges have upheld the judgment  of the  learned Single Judge and held that the planned development  of Delhi  is a public purpose and that, therefore, notification  was not beset with any vagueness in the likely  need of  the land  for the said purpose. It also held that the substance of the notification was published in the  locality,   Naraina.  The   Division  Bench  considered elaborately various  discrepancies pointed out in compliance of the  publication of  the substance of the notification as noted in  the judgment.  Thereafter, it  was held  that they were satisfied that the substance of the notification was in fact effected as per law.      The material  facts are that notification under Section 4(1) of  the Act was published in the Gazette on October 24, 1961. The  substance of  the notification  was published  on November 21,  1961. The  declaration  under  Section  6  was published on  December 7,  1966 after  enquiry under Section 5A. The  first question, therefore, is: whether the land was needed or  was likely  to be  needed for  public purpose  as



envisaged under Section 4(1) of the Act?      The contention  of Shri  Lekhi, learned  senior counsel for the  appellants, is  that the  lands situated within the Delhi Cantonment  are governed  by  the  provisions  of  the Cantonment Act,  1924.  The  land  in  its  jurisdiction  is required to  be developed as per the provisions contained in that Act  and the rules made thereunder. The interim General Plan drawn  up for  development of Delhi in 1957 and revised laster Plan  in 1962  under Delhi Development Act, 1958 (for short the  ‘Development Act’)  effective from  September  1, 1962 and  the further  revised  plan  1992  which  would  be elongated till  2001 do  not  envisage  any  development  in respect of  the acquired  land. The  Master Plan do indicate that the  land use  is "undetermined"  which would  indicate that the  land was  not itemised  to the  effect that it was needed for  any kind of specified public purpose as required under  the   Master  Plan  85  per  the  provisions  of  the Development Act  which requires  various steps  to be  taken thereunder, namely,  Master Plan,  Regional Plan, Zonal Plan and Zonal  Development Plan.  In all the steps, there should be specification  of the  land required for specified public purpose. An  elaborate study by a group of experts undertook to demarcate  various lands situated at different places for various purposes mentioned in the plans appended thereunder. The land in question was not specifically demarcated for any of the purposes. It would, therefore, be clear that the land is not  needed or  is likely  to be  needed for  any  public purpose.  Accordingly,   the  acquisition  is  a  colourable exercise of  power to  deprive the  owners of  the land.  He further contended  that, as a fact, there was no publication of the  substance of  the notification under Section 4(1) of the Act,  in the  locality. Publication  of the notification under Section  4(1) of  the Act  in the State Gazette and of the  substance   thereof  in   the  locality  are  mandatory requirements under  Section 4 (1) of the Act. Hon-compliance thereof renders  the entire acquisition void. Three versions on publication  of the  substance emerge  from  the  record, namely, one,  as given and translated by the counsel for the appellants in  the High Court; second, as given by the court translator as was got done by the High Court; and the third, the affidavit filed by Daryao Singh, who was a peon attached to the  office of  the Land  Acquisition Officer.  The three versions are diametrically inconsistent. Consequently, there is no  acceptable version  found from  the record.  In those circumstances unless it is proved to the hilt that substance of the  notification was  in fact  published in the locality the acquisition  cannot be  declared to be valid in law. The benefit of  doubt should  go to  the owners in upholding the acquisition as  it is  an  expropriatory  action.  The  High Court, therefore,  had not  considered this  aspect  of  the matter in  the proper  perspective. Consequently,  when  the special leave petitions came to be filed in this Court, this Court  had  called  upon  the  respondents  to  produce  the original record.  Since the  records had  not been produced, adverse  inference  was  drawn  and  unqualified  leave  was granted though  notice was  limited   to  and  point.  These circumstances  would  clearly  indicate  that  there  is  no compliance  of   the  requirement   of  publication  of  the substance of  Section 4(1)   notification  in the  locality. Resultantly, the presumption available under Section 114 (e) of  the  Evidence  Act  stands  displaced.  The  High  Court therefore,  was   clearly  in  error  in  holding  that  the substance  of   the  notification  under  Section  4(1)  was published in the locality.      Shri Nambiar,  learned senior  counsel for the Union of



India, contended  that the High Court extensively considered the  entire   record  and   returned  a   finding  that  the notification under  Section 4(1)  was not  only published in the Gazette  but also its substance was got published in the locality as  evidenced from the record. The High Court after perusal and  elaborate consideration  recorded  the  finding that there  are no suspicious features in the publication of the  substance   of   the   notification.   Therefore,   the presumption under  Section 114(e)  of the Evidence Act would be applicable to the facts in this case.      Shri Ravinder  Sethi, learned  senior counsel appearing for the  Delhi Development Authority, has contended that the Master Plan  and the  interim General  Plan do indicate that the lands  are needed for public purpose. The entire Naraina area was  required for  the planned  development. Except the lands in  dispute of  an extent  of 14 bighas, all the lands were  acquired   and  the  Naraina  residential  scheme  was implemented and  around three lakhs people are living there. Though the   land  in question  is partly  situated  in  the Cantonment area, the Development Act stands attracted to the area which  was not  actually  needed  for  the  purpose  of Cantonment. The  notings regarding  the interim General Plan at various  places do  indicate that  the Delhi  Development Authority intended to develop the area of the lands situated within the Cantonment. Under those circumstances, the public purpose  has   been   specifically   envisaged   under   the notification. This  Court consistently has taken a view that planned  residential   development  is   a  public  purpose. Elaboration  thereof   after  the   acquisition   would   be undertaken at  a later  point of time. Therefore, the public purpose as  required under  Section 4(1) of the Act has been satisfied. He,  therefore, contends  that the Division Bench has correctly interpreted the provisions of the Master plan, Development Act  and Cantonment Act in arriving at the above conclusion.      In view  of the diverse contentions, the first question that arises  for  consideration  is:  whether  the  lend  in question is  needed for  a public purpose? If the finding is held against the State, it would not be necessary to go into the second  question. "Public  purpose" has  been defined in Section 3(f) of the Act with an inclusive purpose of various developments  and   extension,   planned   development   and improvement of the village etc. The controversy is no longer res integra.  In Aflatoon v. Lt. Governor [(1975) 1 SCR 802] a Constitution Bench of this Court, (Mathew, J. speaking for the Court)  after an  elaborate consideration, held that the acquisition for  planned development  of Delhi  is a  public purpose. In  the case of an acquisition of a large extent of land  comprising   several  plots   belonging  to  different persons, the  specification of  the purpose can only be with reference to  the acquisition  of the  whole area. Unlike in the case  of an  acquisition of  a small  area, it  might be practically difficult  to specify the particular purpose for which every  item of  land comprised  in the area is needed. Under  those   circumstances,  the  acquisition  of  planned development was  held to  be for  public purpose.  It is not necessary to burden the judgment with the development of the law in  this behalf.  Relevant decisions  in this behalf are Smt. Ratni  Devi &  Anr. v. Chief Commissioner, Delhi & Ors. [(1975) 4  SCC 467];  Pt. Lila  Ram v.  The Union of India & Ors. [(1975)  2 SCC 547]; Om Prakash v. Union of India [1988 (1) SCC  356]; Ram  Chand &  Ors. v.  Union Of  India & Ors. [(1994) 1  SCC 44];  State  of  Tamil  Nadu  &  Ors.  v.  L. Krishanan &  Ors. [(1996)  1 SCC  250] and Jai Narain & Ors. Krishanan & Ors. [(1996) 1 SCC 250] and Jai Narain & Ors. v.



Union of  India & Ors. [(1996) 1 SCC 9]. Suffice it to state that  when  an  authority  constituted  under  the  Act  has initiated the action for acquisition of a large area of land comprising  several   plots  for  planned  development,  the specification of  a particular  land needed  for a specified purpose  intended  to  be  undertaken  for  the  development ultimately to  be taken  up) is not a condition precedent to initiate the  action for  acquisition and publication of the notification under  Section 4(1)  of the  Act in the Gazette does not  vitiated on  account thereof.  The reasons are not far  to  seek.  In  drawing  details,  the  scheme  required detailed examination  consistent with  plans and  ecological balance.      Shri Lekhi sought to place reliance on the judgments of this Court  in Smt.  Somavanti State of Punjab [(1963) 2 SCR 774 and  Khubchand v.  State of Rajasthan [(1967) 1 SCR 973. Somvanti’s case  relates to  acquisition for  a company  and Munshi Singh’s  case was  considered  and  distinguished  in Tamil Nadu  case. Khubchand’s  case relates to compliance of Section 4(1).  So it  is not  necessary to  deal with  these cases in  detail. Suffice  it to state that each case has to be considered  on the  facts and circumstances of each case. The planned  Development of  Delhi was  held to  be a public purpose in  Aflatoon’s  case  (supra)  followed  by  several judgments including the latest judgment of this Court in jai Narain’s case.  The question  then is:  whether the  interim General Plan 1956, the Master Plan under the Development Act brought on  statute in  1962  w.e.f.  1.9.1962  and  further amended plan in 1990 are required to necessarily specify the purpose for which land is needed vis-a-vis the provisions of the Cantonment  Act, 1924.  It is true that when acquisition of the  land was within the limits specified under Section 4 and declaration  under Section  5 of the Cantonment Act 1924 was published,  the Cantonment  Board  and  the  authorities constituted thereunder  get the  power and  jurisdiction  to deal  with   the  lands  within  its  jurisdiction  for  the development. None  of their  representatives finds  berth in Planning Council  under Development  Act. Equally, under the Development Act  the Delhi  Development  Authority  and  the various authorities  constituted thereunder  are required to prepare the  master  plan,  the  zonal  plan  and  the  area developmental plan  as required  for planned  development of the land.  But one  fact that  needs to  be  emphasized  and always kept  in mind  is that  all these  are  developmental activities to  be undertaken  subsequent to  the acquisition after the  land is  available. The harping and insistence on compliance of  details by  Sri Lekhi from several provisions in various  Acts do  not need  elaborate consideration. As a fact High  Court had  done that  exercise and in our view in correct   perspective obviating.  They need for reiteration. Once a  public purpose has been specified by the Governor in the  notification   and  on   specification   obviately   on presumptive satisfaction  thereof the  Governor  issued  the notification as  required under Section 4(1); the absence of the specification and further elaboration of the development do not have the effect of rendering the satisfaction reached by the  Governor  is  illegal  and  the  notification  under Section 4(1)  published by  the Governor  in exercise of the power of  eminent domain is not rendered void. Therefore, it is not  necessary to  elaborately deal  in detail  with  the manner in  which the  development has  to be undertaken when the land  is situated  within the  cantonment area. In fact, Section 12(3)(ii)  of the  Development Act takes care of the development  in  cantonment  area  when  there  would  be  a conflict between  the authorities  under the Development Act



and the  need for  prior approval  in  that  behalf  of  the cantonment, which  is a local authority, for developing land under the  Development Act.  As a  fact, except  the land in question, the  land in  Naraina was  developed as  per plan. Under  those   circumstances,  since   the  High  Court  has elaborately dealt  with this  aspect of  the matter  in  the judgment running  into 129  pages, we feel it unnecessary to burden this judgment with further discussion in that behalf. Accordingly, we  hold that  the notification  under  Section 4(1) is  not vitiated  on account  of the  fact that planned Development was  not specified with particularisation of the land in question needed for the public purpose.      The   next   question   is:   whether   the   mandatory requirements of  Section 4(1) have been complied with? It is not in  dispute that the notification under Section 4(1) was published in  the Gazette.  Therefore, the first limb of the statutory requirement  stands satisfied. The serious dispute is as  regards the  publication  of  the  substance  of  the notification in the locality. In this behalf, the High Court also has  spent considerable time and dealt with in about 20 pages in  considering this  question. In paragraph 57 of the judgment,  the   learned  Judges   have  stated   that   the notification under  Section 4(1)  as regards the endorsement made on the back of the publication of the substance was put in issue  and it was noted. The translated copy given by the learned counsel for appellant was dealt with in paragraph 58 and thereafter in paragraph 59 the contentions raised by the learned counsel  were dealt  with. When there was a dispute, as regards  the contents  of  the  respondent,  the  learned Judges felt  it expedient to have it translated by the Court translator of  the Enforcement  in  Urdu  and  extracted  as under:      "Received one  copy. I  shall affix      the same to some conspicuous place.                          Sd/- Illegible                              21.11."      "The proclamation shall be got done      through the Chowkidar.                          Sd/- Illegible                              21.11."      "Sir,           It is  submitted that one copy      of  the  notice  has  been  affixed      outside  the   court  of  the  Land      Acquisition Collector;  one copy of      the notice  has been  affirmed out-      side   the    Court    of    Deputy      Commissioner,  one   copy  of   the      notice has been affixed outside the      Tehsil office at Kashmere Gate, and      one copy  has been  got affixed  at      the spot in village Naraina through      the Lumberdar.           The report is submitted.                            Sd/-Illegible                               21.11.61.      It would  be seen that the copy of the notification was received  by   the  peon,   Daryao  Singh  and  he  made  an endorsement that  he received  the copy and affixed the same on  some   conspicuous  place.   Thereafter,  he   made   an endorsement which  reads that  "A copy  of  the  notice  was affixed outside the court of the Land Acquisition Collector; one copy  of the notice was affixed outside the court of the Deputy Commissioner;  one copy  of the  notice  was  affixed outside the  Tehsil office  at Kashmere Gate and one copy of



the  notice  has  been  got  affixed  on  the  spot  through Lumbardar" as  was read  out  by  our  Court  Officer  whose services  we  requisitioned.  The  only  difference  in  the translated copy  of the  Court translator  of the Delhi High Court and  that was  explained to  us by or Court Officer is that the  name  of  village  Naraina  was  not  specifically mentioned at the bottom. It is sought to be explained by the learned counsel  for the  Union of  India that on the top of the front  page the  village Naraina  was found written. Our Court Officer  also has  mentioned that  village Nariana was found written  on the  top. When these endorsements are read together it  would  be  clear  that  the  substance  of  the notification was got affixed in the village Naraina since he had already  made an  endorsement that  he received the copy and he  would get  the substance of the notification affixed in some conspicuous place as endorsed on November 21, 1961.      The serious contention raised here and also in the High Court  was   that  Daryao   Singh,  the  peon  of  the  Land Acquisition Collector’s  office made inconsistent statements in his  affidavit filed in the year 1978 and the endorsement contained thereunder with reference to one endorsement dated November 11,  1961 In  this behalf,  the High Court also had dealt with  in extenso  and it has concluded in paragraph 62 thus:      "So there  is no  reason to suspect      any malafides in this interpolation      which adds  nothing to the entry in      the  context   of   the   statutory      requirements.  The   second   entry      similarly  records   the  Lumbardar      undertaking to  proclaim by beat of      drum."      It would  thus be  seen  that  the  High  Court  having carefully perused  the record and extensively considered the same had recorded, as a finding of fact thus.      "We are  therefore of  opinion that      we  should  accept  the  record  as      showing that  a copy  of the notice      was affixed  at a conspicuous place      in the  locality in  which the land      proposed  to   be   acquired   were      situated."      After perusing  the record and satisfying ourselves and also considering various cogent and weighty reasons given by the learned Judges, we are of the opinion that the substance of the notification under Section 4(1) was duty published in the locality.  It is not the law and could not and would not be the law that publication of the substance of Section 4(1) notification in  the locality  should be, established beyond shadow of  doubt and benefit should be extended to the owner or interested  person of  the land. Obvious  thereto, person of the  land. Obvious  thereto,  presumption  under  Section 114(e) of  Evidence Act  has been  raised that official acts have been  properly done  unless proved  otherwise.  We  are satisfied that  it  was  properly  done.  It  is  futile  to reiterate the settled legal position that the publication of the notification  under Section  4(1)  in  the  Gazette  and substance thereof in the locality are mandatory requirements and the  omission thereof  renders the notification void. In Khub Chand’s case, this Court had held the same view. But as recorded earlier,  since substance  of the  notification was published  in   the  locality,   the  second   limb  of  the requirement also  stands complied with. Considered form this perspective, we  are of  the considered  view that  the High Court has not committed any error of law.



    Another contention  raised by  Shri Ravinder  Sethi  is that the  claimant in  the first  appeal had  purchased  the property after the declaration under Section 6 was published and that  therefore he  does not  get any right to challenge the validity  of the  notification published  under  Section 4(1). Since  his title  to the  property is a void title, at best he  has only  right to claim compensation in respect of the acquired  land claiming  interest in  the land which his predecessor-in-title had.  In  support  thereof,  he  placed reliance on the judgments of this Court in State of U.P. vs. Smt. Pista  Devi &  Ors. [(1986)  4 SCC  251]: Gian Chand v. Gopala &  Ors. [(1995)  2 SCC  528]; Mahavir & Anr. v. Rural Institute, Amravati  & Anr.  [(1995) 5  SCC 335]  and  Laxmi Engineering Works  v. P.S.G.  Industiral Institute [(1995) 3 SCC 583].  We need  not deal at length with this issue as is the settled  legal position.  But since other appellants are owners of  the lands who are challenging the validity of the notification and  since we  have upheld  the validity of the notification though  others have challenged its validity. It is not  necessary to  dismiss the appeal of Bahadur Singh on this ground alone as we are upholding the notification under Section 4(1) in the appeals of other appellants.      The appeals  are  accordingly  dismissed,  but  in  the circumstance, without costs.