|No obligation to return land even if it is not needed for stated purpose|
New Delhi : Once a piece of land has been duly acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, it becomes state property. There is no obligation to return it to the owner, even if the land is not needed for the purpose for which it was acquired.
In that event, the state can dispose of the land or convey it to anyone at the market rate, said a Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justices C.K. Thakker and P.K. Balsubramanyan. Writing the judgment, Justice Balasubramanyan cited an earlier judgment and said: "It is settled law that if the land is acquired for a public purpose, after the public purpose is achieved, the rest of the land could be used for any other public purpose. In case there is no other public purpose for which the land is needed, then instead of disposal by way of sale to the erstwhile owner, the land should be put to public auction and the amount fetched can be better utilised for public purpose."
In the instant case, a batch of 43 petitions was filed in the Madras High Court by owners for a direction to the Tamil Nadu Housing Board to re-convey their land acquired in Ambattur taluk as it was not used for building houses.
They argued that Section 48B of the Land Acquisition Act, as inserted by Tamil Nadu, provided for return of land if it was not needed for the purpose for which it was acquired.
A Division Bench directed re-conveyance of the land to the petitioners.
Allowing the board's appeals against this judgment, the apex court Bench said, "If the request of the writ petitioners for re-conveyance in terms of Section 48B of the Act stood rejected," it was not open to the single judge to issue the direction to consider an identical representation all over again.
"The Division Bench [of the High Court] apparently, even without giving the TNHB an opportunity of being heard, proceeded at the stage of admission itself to direct re-conveyance of the land to the writ petitioners," Justice Balasubramanyan said and quashed the judgment.
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