New Delhi: Land acquired for public purpose cannot be re-allotted to other beneficiaries, the
Supreme Court has ruled castigating politicians and authorities for perpetuating a land racket in Jaipur city which witnessed litigation for over two decades.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly also chided the Rajasthan High Court for upholding the allotments despite the Supreme Court`s earlier rulings that the Land Acquisition Officer under the Act (Land Acquisition) has no power to allot land but can only grant monetary compensation to the claimants.
It regretted that the Government and the High Court chose to misinterpret recommendations of a panel headed by the Urban Development Minister for allotment of the land measuring 552 bighas to certain vested interest despite the fact that there was no statutory sanction.
It was a "crude attempt by the concerned political functionaries of the State to legalise what had already been declared illegal by this Court," the bench said.
The controversy related to acquisition of land on May 13, 1960 by Rajasthan Improvement Trust to acquire 552 bighas of village land at Bhojpura and Chak Sudershanpura for planned development of Jaipur city including a building for the State Legislative Assembly.
It was alleged that initially a committee headed by the then Urban Development Minister Ms Kamala in the early 1970s suggested the Land Acquisition Officer decided to allot the same land to certain vested interest at the rate of Rs 8/- per square yard, instead of using the land for the stated public purpose.
The allotment, which was challenged in various courts, lingered till 2000 wherein the High Court also approved the allotment.
In the meantime a recommendation was made on December 6, 2001 by an official panel headed by the Urban Development Minister for legalising the allotment though no such executive order was passed to the effect.
Yet, the allotment was made and the High Court approved it. Aggrieved the Jaipur Land Development Authority challenged the move.
"It is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend as to how the division bench could rely upon the so called policy decision taken by the Government in flagrant violation of two judgements of this Court wherein it was categorically held that transactions involving transfer of land after issue of
notification under Section 4 were nullity and the Land Acquisition Officer did not have the jurisdiction to direct allotment of land to the awardees/sub awardees, their nominees/sub-nominees," the bench said.
"The basics of judicial discipline required that the division bench of the High Court should have followed the law laid down by this Court in Radhey Shyam?s case and Daulat Mal Jain’s case and refused relief to the respondents," the bench said.
The apex court said the division bench despite taking cognisance of the fact that people having connection in the power corridors and economically affluent had illegally taken possession of the acquired land and raised construction, it had approved the so called policy.
"What the High Court has done is to legitimise the transactions, which were declared illegal by this Court and this was clearly impermissible. The High Court’s understanding of the so called policy framed by the Government was clearly erroneous," the bench said.
The bench said the letter written by Deputy Secretary (Administration), Urban Development Department to Secretary, Jaipur Development Authority, Jaipur cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be treated as a policy decision taken by the State Government.
"No document was produced before the High Court and none has been produced before us to show that the recommendations made by the Committee of Ministers had been approved by the State Government culminating in issuance of a policy circular.
"It is trite to say that all executive actions of the Government of India and the Government of a State are required to be taken in the name of the President or the Governor of the State concerned, as the case may be [Articles 77(1) and 166(1)].
"That letter merely speaks of the discussion made by the Committee and the decision taken by it. By no stretch of imagination the same can be treated as a policy decision of the Government within the meaning of Article 166 of the Constitution," the court said.
The bench said that even if the instructions contained in the December 6, 2001 could be treated as policy decision of the Government, the High Court should have quashed the same because the said policy was clearly contrary to the law declared by the apex Court.
"Although, we are prima facie satisfied that execution of lease deeds by the appellant in favour of some persons in 2002 and 2003 is a clear indication of deep rooted malaise in the functioning of the appellant and is also indicative of sheer favouritism and nepotism, we refrain from pronouncing upon the legality of those transactions because the beneficiaries are not parties to these appeals," the bench said.
The apex court also imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh each on two of the claimants- Vijay Kumar Data and Daya Kishan Data for prolonging the litigation.