The Supreme Court on Monday orally questioned the March 6 verdict by the Constitution bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra (now retired) on the land acquisition law, saying it leaves some things unanswered, such as if the government has possession but hasn’t paid compensation, “for how long does this acquisition last?”
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian noted that some questions were required to be discussed and the court would like to clear certain aspects, and sought assistance from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
As the bench noted that the verdict leaves some things unanswered, Mehta informed the top court that after the verdict, several matters were pending both before the top court and also across various High Courts.
He argued that the verdict would operate differently depending upon the facts of each case, especially when was possession taken and what was the nature of possession and the date of award.
The bench noted that the verdict has given the government laxity, which the Parliament did not want to give.
Noting that the Parliament gives five years to pay compensation, the bench asked: “But if not paid, how long will acquisition continue? Forever?”
Mehta suggested that a one-page may be given in all matters with necessary details such as date of award, stay etc. This process would enable the top court to broadly examine the issues.
The bench said: “List these matters after two weeks. In the meantime, as prayed for, the respondents are allowed to file their respective counter-affidavits.”
On March 6, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had said land acquisition proceedings would not lapse if the government had tendered the compensation by deposit in treasury.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Ravindra Bhat said that the land owners cannot insist that the amount should be deposited in court in order to sustain the land acquisition proceedings under the old Act on the commencement of the new land acquisition law with effect from January 1, 2014.
The bench observed that acquisition will be deemed to have lapsed only when government authorities fail to take possession and pay compensation. The question before the court was whether deposit of compensation by the authorities concerned in government treasury can be termed as “paid” within the meaning of Section 24(2) of the law.