20 November 1996
Supreme Court







DATE OF JUDGMENT:       20/11/1996




JUDGMENT:                       J U D G M E N T      Ahmadi, CJI. :      Special leave granted.      The question  which arises  for determination  in these two appeals is whether the period of three months prescribed for making  an application for redetermination of the amount of compensation  under Section 28-A of the  Land Acquisition Act, 1894  (hereinafter called  ’the   Act’) begins  to  run against the  applicant from  the date  of  the  Award  under Section 18  of the Act or even from the date of the decision of the  appeal, if  any,   preferred against  the Award.  In order to  appreciate the  point raised,  we may at once read Section 28-A insofar as it is relevant :      "28-A.  Re-determination   of   the      amount of compensation on the basis      of the  award of  the Court.  - (1)      Where in  an award under this Part,      Court allows  to the  applicant any      amount of compensation in excess of      the amount awarded by the Collector      under  Section   11,  the   persons      interested in  all the  other  land      covered by  the  same  notification      under Section  4,  sub-section  (1)      and who  are also  aggrieved by the      award   of   the   Collector   may,      notwithstanding that  they had  not      made   an    application   to   the      Collector  under   Section  18,  by      written    application    to    the      Collector within  three months from      the date of the award of the Court.      require   that    the   amount   of      compensation payable to them may be      re-determined on  the basis  of the      amount of  compensation awarded  by      the court:      Provided  that   in  computing  the      period of three months within which      an  application  to  the  collector



    shall  be   made  under   this  sub      section, the day on which the award      was   pronounded   and   the   time      requisite for  obtaining a  copy of      the award shall be excluded."      The factual  matrix in  which the  question has  to  be answered may  now be  briefly  noticed.  By  a  notification issued under  Section 4 of the Act, dated 3rd October, 1969, and gazetted  on the  same day,  a certain parcel of land at Cavelossim village,  Salcete Taluka in the State  of Goa was proposed to  be acquired  for a  public purpose, namely, for construction of  an air-to-ground range for the Indian Navy. The possession  of the  land was  taken by the Government on 2nd April,  1970. The declaration under Section 6 of the Act was made  and published  in the  gazette on 10th June, 1971. Thereafter,   the    Land   Acquisition    Officer   awarded compensation for  the acquired  lands at  rates ranging from Rs.0.75 to  Rs.2.50 per sq.m. for different plots comprising the land  under acquisition.  This award  was  made  on  2nd August, 1972. A reference was sought and made to the learned District Judge, LAC No.420 of 1931, which was disposed of on 24th June,  1985  whereby  the  rate  for  determination  of compensation was  revised to  Rs.5 per  sq.  m.  However  in another award  made in  LAC No.406  of 1981 on 14th October, 1985, compensation  was allowed for a different plot at Rs.9 per sq. m. In yet another award, in LAC No.417 of 1981, made on the  same day,  compensation was awarded for another plot at the  rate of  Rs.10 per sq. m. In appeal, the High Court, by its  judgment dated 24th February, 1987, reduced the rate to Rs.5/-  per sq.  m. Thereafter,  the appellant  in  Civil Appeal arising from S.L.P.No.24435 of 1995, applied, on 13th May,  1987,   under   Section   28-A   of   the   Act,   for redetermination   of compensation  for his  plot of land. So also, the appellant Civil Appeal arising from S.L.P.No.24584 of   1995 made  a similar  application under Section 28-A of the Act  on 28th  April, 1987.  Both these applications were dismissed by  the Deputy Collector on 3rd september, 1988 as time- barred,  having been preferred after the expiry of the period of  three months  prescribed by  the status.  Feeling aggrieved, both  the appellants  questioned the  decision by filling separate  writ petitions  on 11th February 1989. The High Court  of Bombay,  Goa Bench, by its judgment dated 5th July, 1995   dismissed both the writ petitions upholding the view that  the applications  under Section  28-A were  time- barred. Hence these appeals by special leave.      Before examining  the decisions of this Court on  which the High  Court has  placed reliance, we deem it appropriate to  first   examine  the  plain  language  of  Section  28-A extracted earlier.  Section 28-A  was inserted  as the  last Section  in  Part  III  entitled  ’Reference  to  Court  and Procedure thereon’  by Act  68 of 1984. Part III begins with section 18  which provides that if an interested person does not accept  the award made by the collector under Section 11 of the  act,  he  may,  by  a  written  application  to  the Collector,  require   that  the   matter  be   referred  for determination  of   the  court.  section  2(d)  defines  the expression ’court’  to mean  the principal  civil  court  of original jurisdiction  unless special  judicial officer  has been appointed.  Therefore,  the  Court  referred  to  under Section 18  can only  mean  the  Principal  Civil  court  of original jurisdiction  section 23  then sets out the matters to  be   taken  into   consideration  in   determining   the compensation to  be  awarded  for  the  acquired  land,  and Section  24   indicates  the  matters  to  be  omitted  from consideration. Section  26 provides  that the award shall be



in writing signed by the judge which shall be deemed to be a decree within  the meaning of clauses (2) and (9) of Section 2 of  the Civil  Procedure Code,  1908. Section  27 provides for costs  to be awarded and Section 28 provides for payment of interest  on excess compensation. We then come to Section 28-A. The  first part  of the  Section begins with the words ’where in  an award  under this  part, Court  allows to  the applicant any amount of compensation in excess of the amount awarded by  the Collector  under Section  11  which  clearly indicate that  the legislature  was talking of an award made under the  provisions of  Part III,  i.e.,  an  award  under Section 11  and therefore,  in that  context,  reference  to ’Court’ can only mean the Court to which a reference is made by the  Collector under Section 18. This position is further clarified when the Section refers to compensation awarded in excess of  the amount  awarded under  Section 11 of the act. The second  part of  the Section then addresses ’the persons interested in  all  the  other  land  covered  by  the  same notification....and who are also aggrieved by the award’ and permits them  to make a written application to the Collector ’within three months from the date of the award of the Court requiring him  to redetermine the amount of compensation the basis of  the amount  awarded by  the Court, notwithstanding the fact  that they had not sought a reference under Section 18 of  the Act.  Thus, the newly added Section seeks to give the same  benefit, which a person who had sought a reference and had  secured the  Court’s award  for a  higher amount of compensation had  received, to  those who had, on account of ignorance or  financial constraints,  not sought a reference under Section  18. In  the latter  part of the Section also, reference is to the award under Section 11 and later, to the award of  the reference  Court under  Section 18 of the Act. Therefore, the  Court referred to therein is again the Court referred to  in Section 2(d) of the Act, i.e., the Principal Civil Court  of Original jurisdiction. The plain language of Section 28-A,  therefore, prescribes the three months period of limitation  to be  reckoned from the date of the award by the Court  disposing of  the reference under Section 18, and not the  appellate Court dealing with the appeal against the award of the reference Court.      We may  now refer to the case law. A two-judge Bench of this Court in Babua Ram Vs. State of U.P., (1995) 2 sec 689, dealt with this precise question and held that the period of limitation begins  to run  from the  date of the first award made on  a reference  under  Section  18  of  the  Act,  and successive awards  cannot save  the  period  of  limitation; videparagraphs 19  and 20  of the  reporter. This  view  was reiterated by  the same  Bench in Union of India Vs. Karnail Singh, (1995)  2 SCC  728, wherein  this Court held that the limitation  of   three  months   for  an   application   for redetermination ofompensation must be computed from the date of the  earliest award  made by  a Civil  Court, and not the judgment rendered  by an  appellate Court. This was followed by the decision of a three-judge Bench in Union of India Vs. Pradeep Kumari,  (1995) 2 SCC 736 r wherein it was held that the benefit  under Section  28-A can  be  had  within  three months from  the date of the award of the reference Court on the basis whereof redetermination is sought. The earlier two decisions in  the case  of Babua  Ram and Karnail Singh were overruled on  the  limited  question  that  they  sought  to confine the  right to  seek redetermination  to the earliest award made  by the  Court under  Section 18 of the Act after the introduction  of Section  28-A into  the Act.  There is, however, no  doubt that  the period of limitation has to  be computed from the date of the Court’s award under Section 18



on the  basis whereof redetermination is sought. Admittedly, in  both   the  cases   at  hand,   the   applications   for redetermination of compensation under Section 28-A were made long after  the expiry  of three months from the date of the award of  the Court  which constituted the basis for seeking redetermination. We  are, therefore, of the opinion that the High Court  was   right in  taking the  view that  both  the applications were _ time-barred.      However, counsel  for the appellants drew our attention to an  order made in the present proceedings by  a two-judge Bench on  November 13,  1995, reported in . (1996) 1 SCC 88, referring two questions to a five-judge Bench, namely :      "1. Whether the award of the Court,      i.e.,     civil  court  made  under      Section  26   on  reference   under      Section  18   would  also   include      judgment   and    decree   of   the      appellate court under Section 54?      2. Whether each successive award or      judgment and  decree (if  answer on      Question No.1  is  positive)  would      give  cause   of  action   to  file      application under  Section 28-A; if      so  construed,   does  not  such  a      construction violate  the  language      used   in    Section   28-A    when      Parliament advisedly  did  not  use      such expressions?"      So far  as the first question is concerned, there is on difference of  opinion on  the question  that the  period of limitation would start to run from the date of the reference court’s order  on the  basis whereof the  redetermination is sought. In the present case, the  redetermination was sought on the basis of the reference Court’s order long after three months even  from the  time the  last order  had elapsed and hence  the   applications  were   clearly  time-barred.  We, therefore, do not see any need to keep these matters pending for decision by a five-judge Bench.      On the  second question,  there was  a difference    of opinion as  the three-judge  Bench in  Pradeep Kumari’s case had departed from the view taken earlier in two cases by the two-judge Bench.  If and  when that  question arises  in  an appropriate case,  perhaps a reference to a five-judge Bench may become necessary.      For the above reasons, we see no merit in these appeals and dismiss the same but with no order as to costs.