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Indian Case Summary

Secretary, Govt. Of India, … vs The Additional Commissioner, … on 26 August, 2021 – Case Summary

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In the case of Secretary, Govt. Of India, vs The Additional Commissioner, which was heard at the Bombay High Court on 26 August 2021, several key issues were addressed. The case was presided over by Justice Manish Pitale and involved multiple arbitration appeals, including those filed by the Secretary to the Govt. of India and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), as well as by various landowners.

Facts of the Case

The case revolved around the acquisition of lands located in village Kapsi (Khurd), District Nagpur, by the NHAI under the provisions of the National Highways Act, 1956. The process began with a notification issued on 21/09/2009 expressing the intention to acquire the lands. This was followed by a declaration of acquisition on 13/10/2010 and public notices issued on 08/12/2010. The Land Acquisition Officer and Competent Authority issued an award determining the compensation payable to the landowners on 31/10/2012.

Issues Raised

The landowners filed applications seeking enhancement of compensation and determination of the same by the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator granted enhancement of compensation at a rate of Rs.3092/- per square meter to the landowners for their respective lands and further directed payment of an additional amount of 10% of total compensation for loss of easementary rights, as per Section 3-G(2) of the National Highways Act, 1956.

The acquiring body, NHAI, preferred applications under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act before the District Court, Nagpur, challenging the Arbitrator’s decision. The District Court confirmed the quantum of compensation granted by the Arbitrator, modified the Award by directing payment of a solatium of 30%, and deducted the grant of 10% amount for loss of easementary rights under Section 3- G(2) of the Act of 1956. The Court further directed payment of interest at rates of 12% and 9% per annum as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Court’s Observations

The Bombay High Court noted that the District Court had modified the Award while exercising power under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act. The Court referred to a recent judgment by the Supreme Court in the case of The Project Director, NHAI vs. M.Hakeem, which clarified that the District Court could not have modified the Award under Section 34 of the Arbitration Act.

The Court also observed that the District Court had granted statutory benefits under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, which flow from the grant of compensation. It was contended that the only modification in the Award was the deprivation of 10% of compensation under Section 3- G(2) of the Act of 1956, as granted under the Award and that therefore, only the said portion needs to be set aside as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court.

The case highlighted the complexities involved in land acquisition cases, the role of arbitration in resolving disputes, and the interpretation of statutory provisions related to compensation, solatium, and interest. The Court’s decision underscored the need for careful application of the law and adherence to Supreme Court precedents in such matters.