Acquisition of land cannot be challenged belatedly: SC

"When a person challenges Section 4 Notification (land acquisition) on any ground, it should be challenged within a reasonable period and if the acquisition is challenged at a belated stage, the petition deserves to be dismissed only on this count," a bench of Justices J M Panchal and B S Chauhan said in an order.

The apex court made the remarks while dismissing the appeal of Swaran Lata and certain other land owners challenging Haryana government's decision to acquire vast tracts of private land.

In this case, the state had acquired the private lands in 2004 after issuing the necessary notifications in May, 2001. It followed all the required procedure by inviting objections through notifications in two newspapers and finally acquired the land by awarding compensation on April 27, 2004.

However, some of the aggrieved land owners like Swaran Lata subsequently approached the high court claiming that they were not aware of the acquistion proceedings and award. It was claimed the notifications for acquistion were also inserted by the authorities in two newspapers which did not have wide circulation and hence they were not aware of the proceedingsThe Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed their appeal on the ground that the challenge to the acquistion was filed after delay of over four years. Their review petitions were also dismissed, after which they had approached the apex court.

Rejecting the land owners plea, the apex court said it was not that the petitioners were not aware of the acquisition proceedings as the only ground taken in the writ petition has been that substance of the notification under Section 4 and the subsequent proceedings had been published in the newspapers having no wide circulation.
"Even if the submission made by the petitioners is accepted, it cannot be presumed that they could not be aware of acquisition proceedings for the reason that a very huge chunk of land belonging to a large number of tenure holders had been notified for acquisition. Therefore, it should have been a talk of the town.

"Thus, it cannot be presumed that petitioners could not have knowledge of the acquisition proceedings.

"In such circumstances, we do not find any fault with the impugned judgment and order. The petitions are dismissed on the ground of delay," the bench said.

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