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Assam Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. Vs. Gillapukri Tea Company Limited and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (28 Jan 2021)

Once possession is taken by the State, land vests absolutely with State and title of the landowner ceases


Labour and Industrial

Assam Industrial Development Corporation Limited has filed present appeals challenging the judgment and order whereby the Division Bench of the High Court has dismissed the said appeals confirming the order of the Learned Single Judge in Review Petition.

Learned Senior Counsel has submitted that, the award had been passed in Form No. 15 of the Assam Land Acquisition Manual and was approved by the State on 5th March, 2010. Possession of the land was also handed over by the first Respondent to the acquiring authority and was thereafter handed over to the Appellant on 11th June, 2010. It is the submission that, once the land stood vested in the State, it could not have been acquired again. Therefore, any issuance of fresh notification Under Section 4 and 6 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (L.A. Act) or even preparing of a fresh award by the State Government in respect of the first Respondent's land will be non est or infructuous. The crucial question for consideration is whether an award in respect of the first Respondent's land was approved by the State Government on 5th March, 2010.

It is undisputed that, the award amount was indeed made available to the Deputy Commissioner and the awarded sum was duly paid to and received by the first Respondent. Not only did the first Respondent receive compensation pursuant to the award, it in fact, sought enhancement of the same vide its reassessment petition under Section 18 of the L.A. Act addressed to the Deputy Commissioner. After the letter dated 5th March, 2010, it was the common belief of the State Government, the Appellant as well as the first Respondent that the award had been approved and that now actions subsequent thereto viz. payment and receipt of compensation, handover of possession, seeking reassessment of the compensation were needed to be undertaken.

It is clear from the materials on record that, the plastic project for which the subject Land Acquisition was initiated has already been developed on the acquired land including boundary wall, entrance gate, laying of roads, drains and electrical distribution networks, electrical substation, industrial sheds and warehouses. Once the award has been approved, compensation has been paid thereunder and possession of the land has been handed over to the Government, acquisition proceedings could not have been reopened, including by way of re-notification of the already acquired land under Section 4 of the L.A. Act by the Government. Contrary to the first Respondent's contention, the question of lapsing under Section 24 of the L.A. Act could not have arisen in present case once the award was approved on 5th March, 2010.

The recent decision of the Constitution Bench of this Court in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Ors. has also affirmed that, once possession is taken by the State, the land vests absolutely with the State and the title of the landowner ceases. There is no reason to deviate from this settled position of law. The orders impugned are set aside. Appeal allowed.

Relevant : Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Ors. MANU/SC/0300/2020


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