SC’s larger bench to hear land acquisition matters

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) A larger bench of the Supreme Court will on Friday hear matters relating to land acquisition, as two benches on Thursday referred the matter to Chief Justice Dipak Misra for consideration by an appropriate bench.

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy and another of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit referred the matter to the larger bench after they were told that a three-judge bench had on Wednesday said that the hearing on land acquisition matters pending before the top court be deferred.

The court had ordered deferring of hearing in the matter relating to land acquisition in the wake of conflicting judgments by a three-judge bench in 2014 and another one on February 8, 2018. Later, the judgment had held the 2014 judgment as per incuriam.

Per incuriam literally translates to “through lack of care”. It refers to a judgment decided without reference to a statutory provision or an earlier judgment that would have been relevant.

Virtually putting on hold the February 8, 2018, judgment, the three-judge bench citing “judicial discipline” had on February 21 said: “Insofar as cases pending in this court are concerned, we request the Benches concerned dealing with similar matters to defer hearing until a decision is rendered one way or the other on the issue whether the matter should be referred to a larger Bench or not.

The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Deepak Gupta, by their February 21 order, had asked the High Courts not to deal with any cases relating to interpretation of or concerning Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The court’s February 21 order came as Mukul Rohatgi and other senior counsel told the court that when a Bench of three judges does not agree with the decision rendered by another Bench of three judges, the appropriate course of action would be to refer the matter to a larger Bench.

The SC’s three-judge bench by its January 27, 2014, order had held that if the compensation for acquiring land under the 1894 Land Acquisition Act has not been paid to the landowner or deposited with the competent court and the same was retained in the government treasury then it (land acquisition) would be treated as having lapsed and would be covered under the new 2013 land acquisition law entitling them (landowners) higher compensation.

The 2014 judgment was rendered by Justice R.M. Lodha (since retired), Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph.

A three-judge bench on February 8 held that the 2014 judgment was per incuriam. The February 8 judgment was rendered by a bench of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.

Referring to the February 21 order, the bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy said that since a larger issue is involved let these be referred to the Chief Justice to constitute an “appropriate Bench and to see whether we can proceed with the hearing or not”.

The bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in their order, referring the matter to Chief Justice Misra, said: “We are of the view that having regard to the nature of the issues involved in the matter, the issues need to be resolved by a larger Bench at the earliest. These matters may be placed before the appropriate Bench tomorrow, that is, February 23, 2018….”

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