Land Acquisition case: Justice Mishra sparks row

Supreme Court of India

A senior Supreme Court judge, Justice Arun Mishra, who has been nominated to head a five-judge bench to decide upon contentious issue of compensation in land acquisition cases, has kicked off a controversy with two farmers association opposing it.

A day after the Supreme Court set up the Constitution bench, All India Farmer Association and Delhi Grameen Samaj have shot off letters to the Chief Justice of India stating that Justice Mishra should not head the Constitution bench. 

Justice Mishra, presiding over a three-judge bench, had on February 8, 2018 declared the previous 2014 judgement, also by a three-judge bench, as per incuriam (without care for law or facts).

When the contradiction between the two judgments was pointed out to another three-judge bench, on February 20, 2018, this bench called it as “judicial indiscipline”.

The 2014 judgement in the 'Pune Municipal Corporation' case declared that the acquisition would lapse if the acquired land was not taken and the compensation was not paid, five years prior to coming into force of 2013 Act.

On March 8, 2018, the matter was referred to the Constitution bench to decide if a Supreme Court bench can pronounce a co-ordinate bench's decision as per incuriam without referring the question to a larger bench.

In its letter, the Telangana-based association cited often-repeated legal principle, "Not only must justice be done; it must also seen to be done", in support of its contention.

It said when the matter was heard last time, Justice Mishra was not the part of the five-judge bench then headed by CJI Dipak Misra (since retired).

Delhi Grameen Samaj, a union of famers from Delhi and National Capital Region, said Justice Mishra heading the bench will have a "direct conflict of interest" in deciding the issue.

On Saturday, a notification was issued stating Justices Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and S Ravindra Bhat would take up the matters related to interpretation of Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The newly-constituted bench is also to consider the correctness of the 2014 and the 2018 as well as other judgements on the subject. 

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