Rashid Paul

HC raps Collector Land Acquisition for failing to disburse compensation for land under Fire complex Anantnag

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Asks govt to consider recovery of award money and interest from officer

Srinagar, Jan 20: The J&K High Court has asked the State government to consider recovery of award money along with interest from Collector Land Acquisition Anantnag for failing to disburse the compensation amount to owners of the land acquired for District Fire Complex in the town.

Disposing off a writ petition by the state that challenged the reference court orders in favor of the affected farmers, Justice Sanjeev Kumar kept the matter “open to the state to recover the same from the concerned collector land acquisition who had failed to follow the mandate of Section 32 of the Act by launching appropriate proceedings”.

He directed “let a copy of this order be placed before the Chief Secretary of the state who shall take appropriate decision with regard to launching of appropriate proceedings against the then Collector in 1999 on account of whose failure the amount was not deposited in the court”.

Pursuant to the intent placed by Directorate of Fire Services, Srinagar, for acquisition of land for construction of District Fire Complex at Anantnag, the Collector in 1999 initiated proceedings for acquisition of land measuring 10 kanals situated at Sarnal, Anantnag under the Land Acquisition Act.

An award to the tune of Rs. 17.25 lakhs at the rate of Rs 1.50 lakh per kanal with Jabrana at the rate of 15 percent was passed by the officer.

The concerned indenting department was directed to remit the award amount within 30 days from the date of issuance of the award.

However, the farmers declined to receive the award money saying that the rates finalized were far less than the commercial rates of land in the area and they accordingly sought legal intervention.

Given the alleged system of protracted legal proceedings in the courts, the farmers filed an application in 2013, seeking a direction to the petitioner to deposit the compensation money with statutory interest.

The petitioner government, however, denied its liability to pay any interest to the land-owner farmers.

The application was considered by the reference court which ordered the petitioner to deposit the interest amount on the awarded amount.

The petitioner, however, agitated the reference court orders in the High Court.

The court while referring to a Supreme Court judgment said that provisions of Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act are wide enough to clothe the reference court with the power to direct the Collector to deposit the compensation -- be it principal amount or the interest accrued thereon.

It said Section 21 of the Act read in conjunction with its Section 19 leaves no doubt that the reference court is competent enough to direct the Collector to deposit not only the amount of compensation but the statutory interest accrued thereon in terms of Section 35 of the Act. 23.

It shall, however, be open to the State to recover the same from the concerned Collector, who had failed to follow the mandate of Section 32 of the Act by launching appropriate proceedings, the High Court said.

The decision in this regard is, however, left for the Chief Secretary of the State to take. This question is no longer res integra, observed Justice Kumar after adjudging the State petition of being without any merit.

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