Failure to file statement by Department of Highways responding to landowner objections will not vitiate acquisition under TN Highways Act: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court observed that the failure to file a declaration by the Roads Department responding to landowners’ objections should not vitiate the process of acquiring land under the Tamil Nadu Roads Act 2001.

“This is not a mandatory requirement. Therefore, the road department may or may not file a statement in response to objections.”, observed the bench consisting of judges MR Shah and BV Nagarathna.

TN Highways Act

Section 15 of the TN Highways Act deals with the power to acquire land. Rule 5 of the Tamil Nadu Highways Rules 2003 provides the mode of publication of the public notice. Rule 5(2) provides that if an objection is received from any person interested in the land within the time prescribed in the public notice, the Government or the Collector or Special Assistant Collector (Land Acquisition), Tamil Nadu Urban Development Project III, if applicable, sets a date for the hearing of objections and gives notice to the objector and to the Department of Highways. Copies of the dispute are also sent to the Roads department. The road service may file, no later than the date set by the government or the tax collector, as the case may be, a memorandum in response to the objections and may also delegate a representative to attend the investigation.

Background

In this case, the landowners’ writ petition was dismissed by the Madras High Court finding that there was substantial conformity of the procedure to be followed under Rule 5 of the 2003 Regulations insofar as objections raised by the original landowner, were specifically addressed and considered before issuing the notification under section 15(1) of the 2001 Act.

Conflicts/problems

In the Supreme Court, Senior Counsel Huzefa A. Ahmadi, who appeared for the landowners, argued that in this case, without awaiting any response from the Department/road authorities to the objections raised by the original landowner, the notification under section 15(1) of the 2001 Act has been issued.

The question raised was whether the part of Rule 5(2) which provides that the Department of Highways may file a statement in response to objections is a mandatory requirement.

This is not a mandatory requirement

Referring to the provisions of the TN Highway Act and Rules, the bench, while denying the motion for special leave, observed:

“Subsection (2) of Rule 5 provides that if an objection 14 is received from any person interested in the land within the time prescribed in the public notice published under subsection 2 of Section 15, the Government or the tax collector or the special assistant tax collector (land acquisition), fixes a date for the hearing of the objections and gives notice of it to the objector as well as to the department of roads. It also provides that copies of the objection shall also be forwarded to the Roads Department and that the Roads Department may file on or before the date fixed by the Government or the Collector, as the case may be, a statement in response or reply to objections and may also delegate a representative to attend the investigation Rule 5 appears to be to give the Department of Roads the opportunity to also respond to objections raised by landowners and so as to give the Department of Roads the opportunity to present the their case. further provides that the Department of Highways may file a statement in response to objections. This is not a mandatory requirement. Accordingly, the Department of Highways may or may not file a statement in response to the objections. There is no additional provision for providing a statement in response to objections filed by the Department of Highways to original landowners. The object and purpose of said subrule (2) of Rule 5, as observed above, is to hear the Department of Highways on the objections raised by the original landowners. Therefore, failure by the Department of Highways to file a statement in response to objections and/or provide the copy thereof to the original landowners shall not vitiate the entire process of acquisition and/or notification issued under subsection (1) of section 15 of the 2001 Act. The said provision can be said to be for the benefit of the Department of Highways so that no adverse action is taken by the state government without giving the Department of Highways the opportunity.”

The court, however, disagreed with the observation made by the High Court that Rule 5 being subordinate legislation is inconsistent with the provision of Section 15(2) of the Act and the same should be ignored. It is true that the same was not justified and we are of the view that Rule 5 cannot be considered inconsistent with Article 15(2) of the Act, the court said.

Case details

Mr. Mohan v Tamil Nadu State Government | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 737 | SLP(C) 12616-17/2022 | September 2, 2022 | Judges MR Shah and BV Nagarathna

Summaries

Tamil Nadu Roads Act, 2001; Section 15(2); Rules of the Roads of Tamil Nadu, 2003; Rule 5(2) – Highways may or may not file statement in response to landowner objections – Not a mandatory requirement – Failure to file statement in response to Highways objections and/or not deliver copy of the same to landowners of origin must not vitiate the entire acquisition process. (Paragraph 5.1)

Tamil Nadu Roads Act, 2001; Section 15(2); Rules of the Roads of Tamil Nadu, 2003; Rule 5 – Rule 5 cannot be said to be inconsistent with section 15(2) of the Act. (Paragraph 7)

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