Shri Mandir Sita Ramji v Late Governor of Delhi and others(1974): When the legislature has spoken, the judges cannot afford to be wiser.

Case Shri Mandir Sita Ramji v. Late Governor of Delhi and Others, AIR 1974 SC 1868
CourtBefore the Supreme Court of India
BenchChief Justice AN Ray, Justice Kuttyil Kurien Mathew
Author of the judgementJustice Kuttyil Kurien Mathew
Decided On6 August, 1974
Advocate for the appellantJ. K. Jain and T. V. S. Narasimhachari
Advocate for the respondent L. N. Sinha, Solicitor General of India, S. N. Prasad, and R.N. Sachthey
AbstractIn the present case, the appellant's land was taken without giving him an opportunity of being heard. Both the single judge and the division bench of the High Court ruled in the favor of the appellant and directed the Delhi Administration to provide hearing to the appellant. Under section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act, it is necessary for the Land Collector to hear the objector and give recommendations. However, this recommendations are not binding on the government. In the present case, the collector did not hear the objector and the hearing was given to the administration directly. The division bench held that there was no need to take into consideration the recommendation of the collector and thus there is no infringement of section 5A of the Act. The Supreme Court did not agree to this and held that the provisions of the statute are mandatory to be observed.
Author of the briefAditya Gor
KeywordsNotification, Land Acquisition Act, Religious Trust, Land Collector, Natural Justice, Legislature.

Brief facts and procedural history:

The Delhi Administration issued a notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act on November 13, 1959 stating that land measuring about 34070 acres was needed for a public purpose. The notification specifically excluded from its purview “land under graveyards, tombs, shrines and the land attached to religious institutions and wakf property”.

The appellant, a society registered under the Societies Registration Act 21 of 1960, filed an objection under s. 5A of the Act in respect of 324 bighas of land in village Karkar Duma. The objection was that the land in question belonged to a religious trust viz., Mandir Sita Ramji, and was exempted from the purview of the notification.

The Land Acquisition Collector submitted his report on the objection to the Delhi Administration on August 18, 1962 and thereafter on November 7, 1968 the Delhi Administration issued the declaration under s. 6 of the Act including the land in respect of which Mandir Sita Ramji had filed objection under s. 5A of the Act.

It is a common ground, that the Delhi Administration did not give a hearing to the appellant before publishing the declaration. It was on the basis of these circumstances that the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench came to the conclusion that the appellant was given no opportunity of being heard under s. 5A of the Act.

When the appeal came up for hearing before the Division Bench, the Division Bench felt that an opportunity of being heard should have been given to the appellant and so the Bench directed the Delhi Administration to give the appellant an opportunity of being heard on the objection and send its report. The appellant was heard and the Lt. Governor, by his order dated April 27, 1972, rejected the objection.

Thereafter, the appeal was again taken up for hearing and the Division Bench came to the conclusion that it was not necessary that the Land Acquisition Collector should have heard the appellant under section 5A and that there was no substance in the contention of the appellant that the land in question was attached to a religious institution and, therefore, allowed the appeal and dismissed the writ petition.

Issues for consideration:

  1. Whether it was necessary for the Land Acquisition Collector to hear the appellant under Section 5A of the Land acquisition Act?
  2. Whether the decision given by the Government on the objection, where the collector was not afforded an opportunity to hear the objection, be valid?

Ratio:

The duty to afford a hearing before the land acquisition collector is mandatory. A decision by the Government on the objection, when the Collector afforded no opportunity of being heard to the objector, would not be proper.

The power to hear the objection under s. 5A is that the Collector and not of the appropriate Government. It is no doubt true that the recommendation of the Land Acquisition Collector is not binding on the Government. The Government may choose either to accept the recommendation or to reject it; but the requirement of the section is that when a person’s property is proposed to be acquired, he must be given an opportunity to show cause against it. Merely because the Government may not choose to accept the recommendation of the Land Acquisition Collector, even when he makes one, it cannot be said that he need not make the recommendation at all but leave it to the Government to decide the matter. In other words, the fact that the Collector is not the authority to decide the objection does not exonerate him from his duty to hear the objector on the objection and make the recommendation.

The objection raised before the collector had a mixed question of law and fact and it was because of that the Collector called for a report. The division bench has erred in observing that the objection raised question of law and thus it was not necessary for the Collector to give his recommendation.

In substance, the objection was that the lands were attached to the religious institution. As the objection raised questions of fact, the Land Acquisition Collector should have enquired into them and should have made his recommendation as provided in s. 5A. The failure of the Land Acquisition Collector to inquire into the objection after giving the appellant an opportunity of being heard would show that he declined to exercise his jurisdiction under the section.

The observance of the procedure laid down by statute before depriving a person of his property is necessary to generate the feeling that rule of law prevails in this country. When a procedure is prescribed by the legislature, it is not for the court to substitute a different one according to its notion of justice. When the legislature has spoken, the judges cannot afford to be wiser.

Held:

The declaration published under section 6 of the Act is quashed down. The Land Acquisition Collector was directed to inquire into the objection after giving an opportunity to the appellant of being heard and make necessary recommendation to the government.