13 August 2019
Supreme Court


Case number: C.A. No.-006270-006273 / 2019
Diary number: 39767 / 2018





CIVIL APPEAL NO.  6270    OF 2019

(Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 32055 of 2018)

Nareshbhai Bhagubhai & Ors.  …Appellants


Union of India & Ors.              …Respondents


CIVIL APPEAL NO.  6271   OF 2019

(Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 32056 of 2018)

Ravibhai Vallabhbhai Sutariya & Ors.  …Appellants


Union of India & Ors.              …Respondents




CIVIL APPEAL NO.   6272    OF 2019

(Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 32057 of 2018)

Ishwerbhai Bhikabhai Patel & Ors.  …Appellants


Union of India & Ors.              …Respondents


CIVIL APPEAL NO.  6273   OF 2019

(Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 32058 of 2018)

Vallabhbhai Chanabhai Ahir & Ors.  …Appellants


Union of India & Ors.              …Respondents



Leave granted.



1. The present Civil  Appeals have been  filed to challenge  the

Final Judgment and Order dated 25.07.2018 passed by the

Gujarat  High  Court,  whereby the  Special  Civil  Application

Nos.  19409 of  2015,  12711 of  2016,  14000 of  2016,  and

14001 of 2016 have been dismissed.

2. Since a common issue arises in all 4 Civil Appeals, they are

being disposed of by the present common  Judgment and


3. The factual matrix in which the present Civil Appeals have

been filed is as under : 3.1. On 08.02.2011, a Notification was issued under

Section 20A of the Railways Act, 1989 [hereinafter

referred to as “the said Act”] by the Ministry of

Railways  notifying its intention  to  acquire the lands

specified in 18 Villages, situated in District Surat,

Gujarat for the public purpose of construction of the

Western Dedicated Freight Corridor.



  The total land under acquisition was a stretch of 131

kms. The land owned by the Appellants, comprising of

approximately 6 kms, was included under the

Notification. 3.2. The Appellants along with other land­owners filed

written Objections between 06.04.2011 and

07.04.2011 under Section 20D(1) of the Act before the

Competent Authority/ Special Land Acquisition Officer,

Surat [hereinafter referred to as “the Competent

Authority”], Surat to challenge the proposed

acquisition. 3.3. The Competent Authority vide letter dated 15.07.2011,

informed the land­owners that the acquisition was for

a necessary public purpose i.e. the development of the

Western Dedicated Freight Corridor. It was stated that

compensation would be paid to all affected land­

owners  in accordance with Sections 20F and 20G of

the Railways Act, 1989.     The land­owners were asked to remain present with

necessary proofs at the time of personal hearing, the

date of which would be intimated to them.



3.4. The Competent Authority vide letter dated 19.07.2011,

directed the land­owners to appear for a personal

hearing on the Objections on 30.07.2011. 3.5. The land­owners appeared before the Competent

Authority on 30.07.2011 for personal hearing, and

submitted further written Objections on 31.07.2011. 3.6. The Competent Authority submitted its Report to the

Central Government under Section 20E(1) of the Act on

03.01.2012.    On 06.02.2012, the Ministry of Railways issued a

Notification under Section 20E(1) of the Railways Act,

1989 stating that 59 Objections had been received in

respect  of the  proposed acquisition,  which had been

considered and disallowed by the Competent Authority. 3.7. On 06.02.2013 and 07.02.2013, Awards were passed

by the Competent Authority under Section 20F of the

Railways Act, 1989. 3.8. On 13.08.2013, Shri Ghanshyamsinh Gambhirsinh

Vashi, a land­owner, filed an RTI Application before the

Competent  Authority seeking  a certified copy of the

Order passed on the Objections filed by the land­

owners. 3.9. The Competent Authority replied  to the said RTI

Application on 05.09.2013, and stated that the reply to



the Objections raised by the land­owners had already

been communicated vide letter dated 15.07.2011. 3.10. The Appellants herein challenged the acquisition

proceedings by filing  Special Civil Application Nos.

19409 of  2015, 12711 of  2016, 14000 of  2016, and

14001 of 2016 before the Gujarat High Court.     The principal ground of challenge raised  by the

Appellants was that no Order had been passed on the

Objections in  accordance  with  Section 20D(2)  of the

said Act.    The Appellants prayed for quashing and setting aside

the Notification issued under Section 20A on

08.02.2011, and the Declaration issued under Section

20E on 06.02.2012. 3.11. During the pendency of the proceedings, the High

Court  vide  Interim  Order  dated 12.07.2018,  directed

the Respondents to file an Affidavit giving specific

details pertaining to the disposal of the Objections after

personal hearing was granted on 30.07.2011. 3.12. The Chief Project Manager, Dedicated Freight Corridor

Corporation of India Limited filed Affidavit dated

17.07.2018 on behalf  of the  Respondents  before the

High Court, wherein it was stated that : “4.  I state that the clarification/reply given vide letter dated  15/7/2011  does not indicate the



decision/order/predetermination of the Competent  Authority.  The  Competent  Authority has merely  clarified  the purpose of  acquisition and provision of Railway Amendment Act 2008 to be considered while awarding compensation. On the contrary, in the said letter dated 15/7/2011, the Competent Authority has clearly informed the objector to remain present with all the relevant documents on a date which was to be intimated later. … 8.  I state that the  Competent Authority, after hearing all the objectors of land under acquisition, has passed two orders dated 28//11/2011 and 3/1/2012 disallowing all the objections raised by the objectors in public interest.  Annexed hereto and marked as Annexure VI Colly. Are the copies of the orders dated 28/11/2011 as well as 3/1/2012.”

3.13. The High Court vide Final Judgment and Order dated

25.07.2018 dismissed the Special Civil Applications

filed by the Appellants.    The Court took the view that in matters involving

highly technical and scientific fields, courts would be

extremely slow in overruling the decision taken by the

Government after due deliberation. Unless it was

pointed out that relevant considerations were not

properly  weighed,  or that the  decision was  blatantly

mala fide, courts would not attempt to substitute their

understanding of such complex subjects for that of the

Government. The Appellants failed to produce any



material to support their objection that the proposed

railway line was not advisable.    It was, however, held that Section 20D of the Act

confers a valuable right on a person interested in the

land under acquisition, to raise objections, and be

heard on such objections. The objections raised by a

person interested have to be considered and disposed

of, after a hearing is given by the competent authority.

If the objections received by persons  interested have

not been disallowed by the competent authority, it

would not be open for the Central Government to

proceed to issue the Declaration under Section 20E(1)

of the Act.     The  High  Court recorded its concern about the

manner in which the entire matter was dealt with by

the Respondents. The land­owners were informed that

their objections were not valid even prior to the

personal hearing took place.    After the personal hearing took place on 30.07.2011,

the Competent Authority disposed of the objections on

the office file, but never conveyed the decision to the

objectors.  The  Competent  Authority  had  not fulfilled



the important stage of disposal of the objections prior

to the Declaration being issued under Section 20E.    It was further observed that the Competent Authority

gave a completely wrong reply to the RTI Application

filed by the land­owners. This  was an act of utter

carelessness which had serious ramifications.     The Competent Authority  vide  Report dated

03.01.2012, informed the Chief Project Manager,

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India

Limited that all the Objections raised by the Appellants

were heard at length, and orally answered.    The Special Civil Applications were dismissed by the

High Court, and the Competent Authority was directed

to pay Costs of Rs. 50,000/­ in each of the Special Civil

Applications. 3.14. Aggrieved by the aforesaid Judgment, the Appellant –

Land­owners filed the present Civil Appeals.

4. We have heard the learned  Counsel for the parties, and

perused the pleadings and written submissions filed by the


5. Mr. C. A. Sundaram, Senior Counsel appearing for the

Appellants inter alia submitted that :



5.1. The Objections raised by the Appellants were not

decided in accordance with the provisions of  Section

20D(2) of the  Act. The  non­compliance of the same

would  render the  entire  acquisition  proceedings  null

and void. 5.2. It was further submitted that the Reply dated

05.09.2013 given by the Respondents to the RTI

Application filed  by the land­owners, clearly showed

that there was   no application of mind on the part of

the Respondents. The said Reply simply stated that the

Order disposing of the Objections raised by the land­

owners  had already been communicated  to them on

15.07.2011. 5.3. The letter dated 15.07.2011 cannot be construed to be

an Order as contemplated by Section 20D(2) of the Act,

since it was issued prior to the personal hearing which

took place on 30.07.2011, and filing of the final

objections on 31.07.2011. 5.4. The letter  dated  15.07.2011  was  not an  Order, but

merely a direction to the Appellants to remain present

with necessary proofs  and documents at a time and

date which would be subsequently intimated.



5.5. It  was submitted that even though the land­owners

were granted a personal hearing, there was no order

passed either allowing or disallowing the objections as

per the mandate of S. 20 D(2) of the Act. 5.6. The orders dated 28.11.2011 and 03.01.2012 were not

communicated to the land­owners. They were merely

notations made on the internal files of the Competent

Authority.      The rejection of the Objections vide an endorsement

or file noting would not constitute an order in the eyes

of the  law. An order passed by a statutory authority

must be a speaking order supported by cogent reasons,

which is required to be communicated to the objectors.

6. Mr. Sanjay Jain, Additional Solicitor General appearing for

the Union of India inter alia submitted that : 6.1. The land acquisition proceedings in the present case

have been undertaken in compliance with Chapter IV A

of the Railways Act, 1989. 6.2. Chapter IV A of the Railways Act, 1989 is a self­

contained code. The Court should not resort to, or seek

the aid of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to interpret

the provisions of the Railways Act,  particularly since

Section  20N of the  Act  makes the  provisions  of the



Land Acquisition Act, 1894 inapplicable to acquisitions

under the Railways Act. 6.3. The process for filing objections under Section 20D(2)

of the Act is two­fold. First, the Competent Authority

permits  objections to  be filed  within  30  days  of the

publication of the  Notification under Section 20A by

the Central Government notifying its intention to

acquire land.     Thereafter, the Competent Authority has the

discretion to  call for  a  personal  hearing in  order to

conduct a further enquiry if deemed necessary. 6.4. In the present case, the Objections raised by the

Appellants were received in writing on 06.04.2011. The

Competent Authority after considering the said

Objections, passed an Order on 15.07.2011 which was

communicated  to  each of the  Appellants.  Thereafter,

personal  hearing  was  granted  on  30.07.2011,  which

was in the nature of a further enquiry.     The  Objections raised by the Appellants in the

personal hearing on 30.07.2011 were almost identical

to those raised earlier on 06.04.2011. The Objections

raised by the Appellants had effectively been dealt with



vide letter dated 15.07.2011, which was communicated

to each of the Appellants. 6.5. It was further submitted that no order was required to

be passed after the personal hearing dated 30.07.2011,

because no fresh material came on record.

7. The issues which arise for our consideration are : i) Whether the provisions of Section 20D(2) have not been

complied with by the Competent Authority in the

present case? ii) If so, what would be the consequences of the non­

compliance of Section 20D(2) with respect to the

acquisition proceedings, and the rights of the


8. Relevant Statutory Provisions To determine the issues raised by the Appellants in the

present proceedings, the statutory provisions of the Railways

Act, 1989 as amended in 2008, would require to be

considered.     The statutory provisions for acquisition of land for a

Special Railway Project are contained in Chapter  IV A of the

Railways Act, 1989. Chapter IV A is a complete self­contained

code for the acquisition of land.



   Chapter IV A was incorporated vide Amendment Act 11 of

2008. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Railways

(Amendment) Act, 2008 states that : “2. There is a need to provide for land acquisition provisions in the Railways Act, 1989 to empower the Central Government in the Ministry of Railways for land acquisition on fast track basis for the  special railway projects  on the lines of the land acquisition provisions available in the National Highways Act, 1956.”

  Chapter IV  A  comprises of  Section  20A to  20P  of the

amended Act. The relevant provisions under Chapter IV A are

set out hereinbelow for ready reference :

“20A. Power to acquire land, etc.

(1)  Where the  Central  Government is satisfied that for a public purpose any land is required for execution of a special railway project, it may, by notification, declare its intention to acquire such land.

(2) Every notification under sub­section (1), shall give a brief  description of the  land and of the special railway project for  which the land is intended to be acquired.

(3) The State Government or the Union territory, as the case may be, shall for the purposes of this section, provide the details of the land records to the competent authority, whenever required.

(4) The competent authority shall cause the substance of the notification to be published in two local newspapers, one of which shall be in a vernacular language.



20D. Hearing of objections, etc.

(1) Any person interested in the land may, within a period of thirty days from the date of publication of the notification under sub­section (1) of section  20A, object to the  acquisition  of land for the purpose mentioned in that sub­ section.

(2) Every objection under sub­section (1), shall be made to the competent authority in writing, and shall set out the grounds thereof and the competent  authority shall give the  objector an opportunity of being heard, either in person or by a legal practitioner,  and may, after hearing all such objections  and after  making such  further enquiry, if any, as the competent authority thinks necessary, by order, either allow or disallow the objections.

Explanation.­­For the purposes of this sub­ section, “legal practitioner” has the same meaning  as in clause (1) of sub­section (1) of section 2 of the Advocates Act, 1961(25 of 1961).

(3) Any order made by the competent authority under sub­section (2) shall be final.

20E. Declaration of acquisition

(1)  Where no objection under sub­section  (1)  of section  20D has  been  made to the competent authority within the period specified therein or where the  competent  authority  has disallowed the objections under sub­section (2) of that section, the competent  authority shall,  as soon as may be, submit  a report  accordingly  to the Central Government and on receipt of such report, the Central Government shall declare, by notification, that the land should be acquired for the purpose mentioned in subsection (1) of section 20A.

(2)  On the publication of the declaration under sub­section (1), the land shall vest absolutely in the Central Government free from all encumbrances.



(3) Where in respect of any land, a notification has been published under subsection (1) of section 20A for its acquisition, but no declaration under sub­section (1) of this  section  has  been published within a period of one year from the date of publication of that notification, the said notification shall cease to have any effect:

Provided that in computing the said period of one year, the period during which any action or proceedings to be taken in pursuance of the notification issued under sub­section (1) of section  20A is stayed  by  an order of a court shall be excluded.

(4) A declaration made by the Central Government  under  sub­section (1)  shall  not  be called in question in any court or by any other authority.

20G. Criterion for determination of market­ value of land

(1) The competent authority shall adopt the following criteria  in assessing and determining the market­value of the land,­­

(i) the minimum land value, if any, specified in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899(2 of 1899), for the registration of sale deeds in the area, where the land is situated; or

(ii) the average of the sale price for similar type of land situated in the village or vicinity, ascertained from not less than fifty per cent, of the sale deeds registered during the preceding three years, where higher price has been paid, whichever is higher.

(2)  Where the  provisions  of  sub­section (1)  are not applicable for the reason that:­­

(i) the land is situated in such area where the transactions in land are restricted by or under any other law for the time being in force in that area; or



(ii) the registered sale deeds for similar land as mentioned in clause (i) of sub­section (1) are not available for the preceding three years; or

(iii) the minimum land value has not been specified under the Indian Stamp Act, 1899(2 of 1899) by the appropriate authority, the concerned State  Government shall specify the floor price per unit area of the said land based on the average higher prices paid for similar type of  land situated in the adjoining areas or vicinity, ascertained from not less than fifty per cent, of the sale deeds registered during the preceding three years  where higher price  has been paid, and the competent authority may calculate the value of the land accordingly.

(3) The competent authority shall, before assessing and determining the market­value of the land being acquired under this Act,­­

(a) ascertain the intended land use category of such land; and

(b) take into account the value of the land of the intended category in the adjoining areas or vicinity, for the purpose of determination of the market­value of the land being acquired.

(4) In determining the market­value of the building and other immovable property or assets attached to the land or building which are to be acquired, the competent authority may use the services  of  a competent  engineer  or  any  other specialist in the relevant field, as may be considered necessary by the competent authority.

(5) The competent authority may, for the purpose of determining the value of trees and plants, use the services of experienced persons in the field of agriculture, forestry, horticulture,  sericulture,  or any other field, as may be considered necessary by him.

(6) For the purpose of assessing the value of the standing crops damaged during the process of land acquisition proceedings, the competent authority may utilise the services of experienced



persons in the field of agriculture as he considers necessary.

20I. Power to take possession

(1)  Where  any  land has vested  in the  Central Government under sub­section   (2) of section 20E, and the amount determined by the competent authority under section 20F with respect to such authority by the Central Government, the competent authority  may, by notice in writing direct the owner as well as any other person who may be in possession of such land to surrender or deliver possession thereof to the competent authority or any person duly authorised by it in this  behalf within a period of sixty days of the service of the notice.

(2) If any person refuses or fails to comply with any  direction  made  under sub­section (1), the competent authority shall apply—

(a) In case of  any  land situated  in any area falling within the metropolitan area, to the Commissioner of Police; (b) In case of  any  land situated  in any area other than the area referred to in clause (a), to the Collector of a district,  

And such Commissioner or Collector, as the case may be, shall enforce the surrender of the land, to the competent authority or to the person duly authorised by it.

20J.  Right to enter into land where land has vested in Central Government

Where the land has vested in the Central Government under section 20E, it shall be lawful for any person authorised by the Central Government in this behalf, to enter and do other act  necessary upo0n the land  for  carrying out the building, maintenance, management or



operation of  the special  railway project  or part thereof or nay other work connected therewith.

20N. Land Acquisition Act 1 of 1894 not to apply

Nothing in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 shall apply to an acquisition under this Act.”

9. The scheme of Chapter IV A is as follows : i) The Central Government is empowered under Section

20A  to issue  a  preliminary  Notification,  notifying its

intention to acquire land for a public purpose required

for the execution of a special railway project. ii) Section 20D provides for filing of objections and grant

of personal hearing. The provision is in two parts : a) Sub­section (1) states that any person interested in

the land, may within a period of 30 days from the

date of publication of the notification under sub­

section (1) of  Section  20A, file objections to the

acquisition of land for the purpose mentioned in

that sub­section. b) Under sub­section (2) of Section 20D, the mandate

of the statute is that :  Every objection shall be made in writing to the

Competent Authority;  



 The Competent Authority  is  mandated to give

an opportunity of hearing to the Objector, either

in person or by a legal practitioner;   That “after hearing” all objections, and after

making such further enquiry, if any, the

Competent Authority may either allow or

disallow the objections by an order. c) Sub­section (3) of Section 20D states that an order

passed by the Competent Authority under Section

20D (2) shall be final. iii) Sub­section (1) of Section 20E provides that if no

objections are received, or if the objections are

disallowed, then the Competent Authority shall submit

a report to the Central Government. iv) On receipt of such report from the Competent

Authority, the  Central  Government shall declare by

notification, that the land should be acquired for the

purpose mentioned in sub­section (1) of Section 20A. v) On  the  publication  of the  declaration  under  Section

20E(1), the land shall  vest  absolutely in the Central

Government free from all encumbrances. vi) Sub­section (3) of Section 20E states that if the

declaration is not published within a period of one year

from the date of publication of the Notification under



Section 20A(1), the Notification shall cease to have any

effect. vii) Sub­section (4) of Section 20E states that the

declaration  made  by the  Central  Government  under

sub­section (1) shall not be called in question in any

court of law or by any authority. 9.1. A reading of the aforesaid statutory provisions   shows

that the land­owner or interested person has been

granted a limited right to file objections under Section

20D of the Railways Act, 1989. The scope of the

objections is limited to the purpose for which the

acquisition is  made. It is  not a general right to file

objections as under Section 5A of the Land Acquisition

Act, 1894. 9.2. The statute has  mandated a strict procedure to be

followed under Section 20D with respect to the

submission and hearing of objections.    The statute mandates that the order is required to be

passed by the Competent Authority “after hearing” the

land­owners. The order cannot precede the hearing of

objections. If an order is passed prior to the personal

hearing,  and enquiry  by the  Competent  Authority, it



would be contrary to the statute, invalid, and vitiated

by a pre­determined disposition.

10. In the present case, it is the admitted position that after the

personal hearing took place on 30.07.2011,  no decision was

passed on the objections submitted by the land­owners,

either allowing or disallowing their objections; nor was any

communication sent to them.     This is confirmed by the Affidavit of the Competent

Authority dated 18.07.2018 filed before the High Court (pgs.

296 – 301, Volume II), wherein it is stated as follows :­ “7. It is respectfully submitted that personal hearing  was fixed in between 30.07.2011 to 18.08.2011 and 21.10.2011 to 03.01.2012 and alongwith the objections raised by the petitioners, in total 88 objectors are given opportunity of hearing in the aforementioned time  period,  and  as the  date  qua the  present petitioners  was fixed for providing  hearing on 30.07.2011, the personal hearing was provided wherein the same kind of objections were raised as raised by way of objection application dated 06.04.2011 and therefore the objection was recorded in the hearing memo dated 30.07.2011 and after completion of the hearing proceedings qua all the objectors, on 28.11.2011 and 03.01.2012 respectively  the noting was prepared by endorsing that all the objections are rejected and therefore the proposal was submitted before the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation for further procedure.  I  crave leave to produce the original file at the time of hearing of the present matter.

8. It is most humbly and respectfully submitted that so far as the averment regarding reply dated 05.09.2013 under RTI application is



concerned, I say and submit that the applicants have asked for certified copy of the decision taken for hearing provided to the objector, wherein vide reply dated 05.09.2013 the reply was given from the office of the answering respondent by stating that “the reply to the objection application given by you against Notification under the provisions of Section 20A of the Railway Amendment Act has already been given to you by this office (copy is enclosed).  Moreover,  necessary hearing  in that behalf has also been afforded to you.  No order regarding  objection  application is  passed  after such hearing, because reply regarding objection application has already been given to you.”

(emphasis supplied)

10.1. It is abundantly clear that in the absence of an order

being passed as contemplated by Section 20D of the

said Act, no further steps could have been taken by the

Competent Authority in the acquisition in question. 10.2. During the  hearing  of the  Special  Civil  Applications,

the High Court called for the office files of the

Respondent. On a perusal of the files, the Court

chanced upon a hand­written note sent by the

Competent Authority to the Chief Project  Manager,

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India

Limited, which is set out hereinbelow : “Finally after due consideration and taking in to view the nationwide infrastructure, long lifetime permanent utility and hence public utility is greater than that of person, all the 59 objection were  disallowed  by  order  by the  undersigned



and their applications for objection were filed at this end.”

  The file noting in the office files of the Competent

Authority cannot be considered to be an order on the


11. Section 20D is a mandatory provision which confers a

substantive and valuable right on the land­owners, to object

to the proposed acquisition, before they are forcibly divested

of their right, title and interest in the land by an

expropriatory legislation.

   The right to file objections  under  Section 20D of the

Railways Act, 1989 is pari materia to Section 5­A of the Land

Acquisition Act,  1894 even though the scope of  objections

may be more limited.    The judgments rendered by this Court on the nature of the

right to object  under the Land  Acquisition  Act, 1894 are

equally applicable to the Railways Act.    Sub­section (2) of Section 20D mandates the Competent

Authority to give the  objectors an  opportunity of  hearing,

either in person or through a legal practitioner.



   The Competent Authority after hearing all objections, and

after  making such  further  enquiry, if  any, is  mandated to

pass an order either allowing or disallowing the objections.     There are a catena of judgments passed on Section 5­A of

the Land Acquisition Act,  1894, which are relevant for the

interpretation of Section 20D(2) of the said Act.     This Court has held that the rules of natural justice have

been ingrained in the scheme of Section 5­A of the 1894 Act

with a view to ensure that before any person is forcibly

deprived of  his land by way of  compulsory acquisition,  he

must be provided with an opportunity to oppose the decision

of the Government.1

  This Court has held that the  hearing given to a person

must be an effective one, and not a mere formality.

Formation of opinion with regard to the public purpose, as

also suitability thereof, must be preceded by application of

mind having due regard to the relevant factors.    Section 5­A of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 confers a

valuable right on the land­owners.  Having regard to the

provisions contained in Article 300­A of the Constitution, the

right to raise and file objections has been held to be akin to a

fundamental right.2

1 Union of India v. Shivraj, (2014) 6 SCC 564. 2 Ibid.



   In  Hindustan Petroleum  Corpn. Ltd.  v.  Darius Shapur

Chenai,3 this Court held that: “6. It is not in dispute that Section 5­A of the Act confers  a valuable right in favour  of  a  person whose lands are sought to be acquired.  Having regard to the provisions contained in Article 300­ A of the Constitution, the State in exercise of its power of  “eminent  domain” may  interfere with the right of property of a person by acquiring the same but the same must be for a public purpose and reasonable compensation therefor must be paid.

9. It is trite that hearing given to a person must be  an effective  one  and not  a  mere formality. Formation of opinion as regards the public purpose as also suitability thereof must be preceded by application of mind as regards consideration of relevant factors and rejection of irrelevant ones. The State in its decision­making process  must not commit any  misdirection in law. It is also not in dispute that Section 5­A of the Act confers a valuable  important  right  and having regard to the provisions contained in Article 300­A of the Constitution it has been held to be akin to a fundamental right.

(emphasis supplied)

  In N. Padmamma v. S. Ramakrishna Reddy, this Court held that :

“21. If the right of property is a human right as also a constitutional right,  the same cannot be taken away except in accordance with law. Article  300­A  of the  Constitution  protects  such right. The provisions of the Act seeking to divest such right, keeping in view of the provisions of Article 300­A of the Constitution of India, must be strictly construed.”

(emphasis supplied)

3 (2005) 7 SCC 627.



In Om Prakash v. State of U.P.,4 this Court held that : “21. Our attention was also invited by Shri Shanti Bhushan, learned Senior Counsel for the appellants to a decision of a two­Judge Bench of this Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Gurdial Singh [(1980) 2 SCC 471] wherein Krishna Iyer, J. dealing  with the question of exercise of emergency powers under Section 17 of the Act observed in para 16 of the Report that save  in real  urgency where public interest did not brook even the minimum time needed to give a hearing, land acquisition authorities should not, having regard to Articles 14 and 19, burke an inquiry  under  Section  17 of the  Act.  Thus, according to the aforesaid decision of this Court, inquiry under Section 5­A is not merely statutory but also has a flavour of fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution though right to property has now no longer remained a fundamental right, at least observation regarding Article 14, vis­à­vis, Section  5­A of the  Land Acquisition  Act  would remain apposite. The said decision has been cited with approval in Union of India v. Krishan Lal Arneja[(2004) 8 SCC 453].”

(emphasis supplied)

11.1. The limited right given to a land­owner/interested

person  to file  objections,  and be  granted a  personal

hearing under Section 20D cannot be reduced to an

empty formality, or a mere eye­wash by the Competent

Authority.      The Competent Authority was duty­bound to

consider the objections raised by the Appellants, and

4 (1998) 6 SCC 1.



pass a reasoned order, which should reflect application

of mind to the objections raised by the land­owners.     In the  present case, there  has been a complete

dereliction of duty by the Competent Authority in

passing a reasoned order on the objections raised by

the Appellants. 11.2. In the present case, it is the undisputed position that

no order as contemplated in the eyes of law was passed

by the Competent Authority in deciding the objections

raised by the Appellants.    A  statutory  authority  discharging a  quasi­judicial

function is required to pass a reasoned order after due

application of mind.    In Laxmi Devi v. State of Bihar,5 this Court held that :

“9.  The importance of Section 5­A cannot be overemphasised. It is conceived from natural justice  and  has  matured into  manhood in the maxim of audi alteram partem i.e. every person likely to be adversely affected by a decision must be granted a  meaningful opportunity of being heard. This right cannot be taken away by a side  wind, as so powerfully and pellucidly stated  in  Nandeshwar  Prasad v.  State  of  U.P. [AIR 1964 SC 1217].  So  stringent is this right that it mandates that the person who heard and considered the objections can alone decide them; and not even his successor is competent to do so even on the basis of the materials collected by his predecessor.  Furthermore, the decision on the objections should be available in a self­ contained, speaking and reasoned order; reasons cannot be added to it later as that would be akin to putting old wine in new bottles. We can do no  better than commend a  careful

5 (2015) 10 SCC 241.



perusal of Union of India v. Shiv Raj  [(2014) 6 SCC 564 : (2014) 3 SCC (Civ) 607] , on these as well as cognate considerations.”

(emphasis supplied)

  In Raghbir Singh Sehrawat v. State of Haryana,6 this

Court held that : “40. Though it is neither possible nor desirable to  make a list of the grounds on  which the landowner can persuade the Collector to make recommendations against the proposed acquisition of land, but what is important is that the  Collector should give  a fair opportunity of hearing to the objector and objectively consider his plea  against the  acquisition of land.  Only thereafter, he should make recommendations supported by brief reasons as to why the particular piece of land should or should not be acquired and whether or not the plea put forward by the objector  merits acceptance. In other words, the recommendations made by the Collector must reflect objective application of mind to the objections filed by the landowners and other interested persons.”

(emphasis supplied)

  In Usha Stud & Agricultural Farms (P) Ltd. v. State of  

Haryana,7 this Court held that, “The ratio of the aforesaid judgments is that Section 5­A(2), which represents statutory embodiment of the rule of audi alteram partem, gives an opportunity to the objector to make an endeavour to convince the Collector that his land is not required for the public purpose specified in the Notification issued under Section 4(1) or that there are other valid reasons  for  not  acquiring the same. That section also makes it obligatory for the Collector to submit report(s) to the appropriate Government containing his recommendations on the objections, together with the record of the proceedings held by him so that the  Government  may take  appropriate

6 (2012) 1 SCC 792. 7 (2013) 4 SCC 210.



decision on the objections. Section 6(1) provides that if the appropriate Government is satisfied, after considering the report, if any, made by the Collector under Section 5­A(2) that particular land is needed for the specified public purpose then a declaration should be made.  This necessarily implies that the State Government is required to apply mind to the report of the Collector and take final decision on the objections filed by the landowners and other interested persons. Then and then only, a declaration can be made under Section 6(1).”

(emphasis supplied)

  In Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd. (supra), this  

Court held that: “16. However,  considerations of the objections by the owner of the land and the acceptance of the recommendations by  the  Government, it is trite, must precede a proper application of mind on the part of the Government. As and when a person aggrieved questions the decision­making process, the court in order to satisfy itself as to whether one or more grounds for judicial review exist, may call for the records whereupon such records must be produced. The writ petition was filed in the year 1989. As noticed hereinbefore, the said writ petition was allowed. This Court, however, interfered  with the  said  order  of the High Court  and remitted  the  matter  back  to it upon giving an opportunity to the parties to raise additional pleadings. … 19. Furthermore,  the State  is required to apply its mind not only on the objections filed by the owner of the land but also on the report which is submitted  by the  Collector  upon  making other and further enquiries therefor as also the recommendations  made  by him  in that  behalf. The State Government may further  inquire  into the matter, if any case is made out therefor, for arriving at its own satisfaction that it is necessary to deprive a citizen of his right to property. It is in that situation that production of records by the State is necessary.



… 28. Although assignment of reasons is the part of principles of natural justice, necessity thereof may be taken away by a statute either expressly or by necessary implication. A declaration contained in a notification issued under Section 6 of the Act need not contain any reason but such a notification must precede the decision of the appropriate Government. When a decision is required to be taken after giving an opportunity of hearing to a person  who  may suffer civil or evil consequences by reason thereof, the same would mean an effective hearing.”

(emphasis supplied)    In Kranti Associates (P) Ltd. v. Masood Ahmed Khan,8

this Court held that: “12.      The necessity of giving reason by a body or authority in support of its decision came up for consideration before this Court in several cases. Initially this Court recognised a sort of demarcation between administrative orders and quasi­judicial orders but  with the passage of time the distinction between the two got blurred and thinned out and virtually reached a vanishing point in the judgment of this  Court in      A.K. Kraipak      v.      Union of  India      [(1969)  2 SCC 262 : AIR 1970 SC 150] … 47. Summarising the above discussion, this Court holds: (a) In India the judicial trend has always been to record reasons, even in administrative decisions, if such decisions affect anyone prejudicially. (b) A quasi­judicial authority must record reasons in support of its conclusions. (c) Insistence on recording of reasons is meant to serve the wider  principle of justice  that justice must not only be done it must also appear to be done as well. (d) Recording of reasons also operates as a valid restraint on  any  possible  arbitrary  exercise of judicial and quasi­judicial or even administrative power.

8 (2010) 9 SCC 496.



(e)  Reasons reassure that  discretion  has  been exercised by the decision­maker on relevant grounds and by disregarding extraneous considerations. (f) Reasons have virtually become as indispensable a component of a decision­making process as observing principles of natural justice by judicial, quasi­judicial and even by administrative bodies. (g) Reasons facilitate the process of judicial review by superior courts. (h) The ongoing judicial trend in all countries committed to rule of law and constitutional governance is in favour of reasoned  decisions based on relevant facts. This is virtually the lifeblood of judicial decision­making justifying the principle that reason is the soul of justice. (i) Judicial or even quasi­judicial opinions these days can be as different as the judges and authorities who deliver them. All these decisions serve one common purpose which is to demonstrate by reason that the relevant factors have been objectively considered. This is important for sustaining the litigants' faith in the justice delivery system. (j) Insistence on reason is a requirement for both judicial accountability and transparency. (k) If a judge or a quasi­judicial authority is not candid enough about his/her decision­making process  then  it is impossible to  know whether the person deciding is faithful to the doctrine of precedent or to principles of incrementalism. (l)  Reasons in support of decisions must be cogent, clear and succinct. A pretence of reasons or “rubber­stamp reasons” is not to be equated with a valid decision­making process. (m) It cannot be doubted that transparency is the sine  qua non of restraint  on  abuse  of judicial powers. Transparency in decision­making not only makes the judges and decision­makers less prone to errors but also makes them subject to broader scrutiny. (See David Shapiro in Defence of Judicial Candor [(1987) 100 Harvard Law Review 731­37] .) (n) Since the requirement to record reasons emanates from the broad doctrine of fairness in decision­making, the said requirement is now



virtually a component of human rights and was considered part of Strasbourg Jurisprudence. See Ruiz Torija v. Spain [(1994) 19 EHRR 553] EHRR, at 562 para 29 and Anya v. University of Oxford [2001 EWCA Civ 405 (CA)] , wherein the Court referred to Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights which requires, “adequate and intelligent reasons must be given for judicial decisions”. (o) In all common law jurisdictions judgments play a vital role in setting up precedents for the future. Therefore, for development of law, requirement of giving reasons for the decision is of the  essence  and  is  virtually  a  part  of “due process”.”

(emphasis supplied)

11.3. File Notings and lack of Communication    It is settled law that a valid order must be a reasoned

order, which is duly communicated to the parties. The

file noting contained in an internal office file, or in the

report submitted by the  Competent  Authority to the

Central Government, would not constitute a valid order

in the eyes of law.    In the present case, there was no order whatsoever

passed rejecting the objections, after the personal

hearing was concluded on 30.07.2011.    It is important to note that the Competent Authority

did not communicate the contents of the file noting to

the  Appellants  at  any  stage  of the  proceedings.  The

said file  noting came to light  when the  matter  was



pending before the High Court,  and the original files

were summoned.    The High Court, upon a perusal of the files, came

across the file noting recording rejection of the

objections only on the ground that the matter

pertained to an infrastructure project for public utility.    In Bachhittar Singh v. State of Punjab,9 a Constitution

Bench held that merely writing something on the file

does not amount to an order. For a file­noting to

amount to a decision of the Government,  it must be

communicated to  the  person so affected,  before that

person can be bound by that order. Until the order is

communicated to the person affected by it, it cannot be

regarded as anything more than being provisional  in

character.    Similarly, in  Shanti Sports Club  v.  Union of India,10

this  Court  held that  notings recorded in the  official

files, by the officers of the  Government at different

levels, and even the Ministers, do not become a

decision of the Government, unless the same are

sanctified and acted upon, by issuing an order in the

9 AIR 1963 SC 395. 10 (2009) 15 SCC 705.



name of the President or Governor, as the case may be,

and are communicated to the affected persons.    In Sethi Auto Service Station v. DDA,11 this Court held

that:  “14. It is trite to state that notings in a departmental file do not have the sanction of law to be an effective order. A noting by an officer is an expression of his viewpoint on the subject. It is no  more than an opinion by an officer for internal use and consideration of the other officials of the department and for the benefit of the final decision­making authority. Needless to add that internal notings are not meant for outside exposure.  Notings in  the file  culminate into an executable order, affecting the rights of the parties, only when it reaches the final decision­making authority in the department, gets his approval and the final order is      communicated      to the person concerned. … 16. To the like effect are the observations of this Court in Laxminarayan R. Bhattadv. State of Maharashtra [(2003) 5 SCC  413] ,  wherein it was said that a right created under an order of a statutory authority must be communicated to the person concerned so as to confer an enforceable right.”

(emphasis supplied)

11.4. Contradictory Stand taken by the Respondents  

  The mandate of the  law is that the order  on the

objections is required to be passed by the Competent

Authority “after the personal hearing” is granted.

   The Respondents had filed an Affidavit dated

17.07.2018 before the High Court wherein it was

11 (2009) 1 SCC 180.



stated that the reply given vide letter dated 15.07.2011

does not indicate the decision/order/pre­determination

of the Competent Authority. The Competent Authority

had informed the objectors to remain present with all

material  documents at the time of  personal  hearing,

the date of which would be notified later.    At the time of arguments before this Court, it was

sought to be contended by the Additional Solicitor

General for the  Union of India that the letter  dated

15.07.2011 was an order passed under Section 20D(2)

of the Act.    We find that the stand taken by the Respondents

before the  High  Court and this  Court is completely

contradictory, and does not commend acceptance. 11.5. In any event, the order under Section 20D(2) cannot be

passed prior to the personal hearing. The mandate of

the law is that the order must be passed “after” the

grant of personal hearing, and after any further

enquiry is made by the Competent Authority.    The whole process of  granting a personal hearing

would be reduced to an empty formality and a farcical

exercise, if the  order  on  the  objections  precedes the



grant of personal hearing. This would be clearly

contrary to the provisions of Section 20D(2) of the Act.    It is well settled that where a statute provides for a

thing to be done in a particular manner, then it has to

be done in that manner and in no other manner.12 The

provisions of an expropriatory legislation, which

compulsorily deprives a person of his right to property

without his consent, must be strictly construed.13 The

Railways Act, 1989 being an expropriatory legislation,

its provisions have to be strictly construed.14

11.6. The Competent Authority being a quasi­judicial

authority, is obligated by law to act in conformity with

mandatory statutory provisions. It is important to note

that this is the only opportunity made available to a

land­owner, as on submission of the  Report to the

Central Government, there is no further consideration

that takes place. The Central  Government acts upon

the Report of the Competent Authority, and issues the

Declaration under Section 20E of the said Act.

12 Nazir Ahmad v. King Emperor, (1875) LR 1 Ch D 426 followed in Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 322; State of U.P. v. Singhara Singh, AIR 1964 SC 358; J&K Housing Board v. Kunwar Sanjay Krishan Kaul, (2011) 10 SCC 714; Kunwar Pal Singh v. State of U.P., (2007) 5 SCC 85. 13 Jilubhai Nanbhai Khachar  v. State of Gujarat, 1995 Supp (1) SCC 596; See also  Khub Chand v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1967 SC 1074; CCE v. Orient Fabrics (P) Ltd., (2004) 1 SCC 597.  14 Indore Vikas Pradhikaran v. Pure Industrial Coke & Chemicals Ltd., (2007) 8 SCC 705.



  This is in contradistinction with the provisions of the

Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Section 6 of the Land

Acquisition Act requires the satisfaction of Central

Government before the Declaration is issued. 11.7. In the absence of an order passed under Section

20D(2), the subsequent steps taken in the acquisition

would consequentially get invalidated.

12. The issue which remains to be decided is that in the absence

of  an  order  passed  on the  objections  under  Section  20D,

should the consequential steps be invalidated.    We find that the challenge before this Court has been made

by the Appellants with respect to a stretch of land

admeasuring approximately 6 kms, out of the total stretch of

131 kms. The remaining stretch of land comprising of 125

kms has been acquired, and stands vested in the

Government. The Respondents have stated on Affidavit that

pre­construction activity and earth work has been completed

on  most parts of the stretch. Furthermore, most of the

bridges are either in progress, or have already been

completed.    The Senior Counsel representing the Appellants in all the

present Civil Appeals, after taking instructions from his



clients, submitted that since the land was being acquired for

a public utility project, his clients would be satisfied if they

were granted compensation by awarding the current rate for

acquisition of land.     Admittedly, no  mala fides  have been alleged by the

Appellants against the Respondents in the acquisition

proceedings. The larger public purpose of a railway project

would not be served if the Notification under Section 20A is

quashed. The public purpose of the acquisition is the

construction and operation of a Special Railway Project  viz.

the  Western  Dedicated Freight  Corridor in  District Surat,

Gujarat.     In these extraordinary circumstances,  we deem it fit to

balance the right of the Appellants on the one hand, and the

larger public purpose on the other, by compensating the

Appellants for the right they have been deprived of. The

interests of justice persuade us to adopt this course of

action.    In Savitri Devi v. State of U.P. & Ors.,15 this Court held that:

“Thus,  we have a scenario  where,  on  the one hand, invocation of urgency provisions under Section 17 of the Act and dispensing with the right to file objection under Section 5A of the Act, is found to  be illegal.  On the  other  hand,  we have a situation where because of delay in challenging these acquisitions by the land

15 (2015) 7 SCC 21.



owners, developments have taken in these villages  and  in  most  of the  cases, third  party rights have been created. Faced with this situation, the High Court going by the spirit behind the judgment of this Court in Bondu Ramaswamy and Others (supra) came out with the solution which is equitable to both sides. We are, thus, of the view that the High Court considered the ground realities of the matter and arrived at a more practical and workable solution  by  adequately compensating the land owners in the form of compensation as well as allotment  of  developed Abadi land at  a  higher rate i.e. 10% of the land acquired of each of the land owners  against the eligibility  and to the policy to the extent of 5% and 6% of Noida and Greater Noida land respectively.”

(emphasis supplied)

  In the present case, the relief is being moulded by granting

compensation to the Appellants, to be assessed under

Section 20G of the said Act as per the current market value

of the land. The Competent Authority is directed to compute

the amount of compensation on the basis of the current

market value  of the land,  which  may  be  determined  with

reference to Section 20G(2) of the Act.     

13. With respect to the remaining 125 kms stretch of land, the

land­owners  were  satisfied  with the  amount  awarded,  and

have not approached this Court.    Under these circumstances, despite our finding that the

Respondents have breached the mandatory provisions of the



Act, we do not think this is a fit case to set aside the entire

acquisition proceedings.    The relief granted in the present case is confined to the

Appellants  herein, and  would  not  become a  precedent for

other land­owners who have not challenged the acquisition

proceedings before this Court.

The  Civil Appeals are allowed in the aforesaid terms. All

pending Applications, if any, are accordingly disposed of.

Ordered accordingly.

.......................................J. (ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE)

...…...............………………J. (INDU MALHOTRA)

New Delhi; August 13, 2019.