Synopsis: The Supreme Court allowed an Appeal by the Kolhapur Municipal Corporation (KMC) challenging Orders of the High Court of Bombay, which directed KMC to complete acquisition of lands reserved under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966 (MRTP Act), and pay compensation to the landowners.
- Lands were reserved under the Development Plan sanctioned on 18.12.1999 for public purposes.
- Since they were not acquired and used for those purposes, the landowners issued notice after lapse of the statutorily prescribed period of 10 years, under Section 127 of the MRTP Act, on 02.01.2012, calling upon the State to acquire the land, failing which the reservation would lapse.
- Kolhapur Municipal Corporation passed a resolution to acquire the land, on receipt of the notice.
- On 17.4.2012, KMC submitted a proposal to State Government to acquire the property. Thereafter, directions were issued to KMC to deposit the funds required for acquisition.
- Upon coming into force of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, KMC was directed to deposit the enhanced compensation amounts, payable under the new law. KMC learned, also, that the lands fell on a nala, were within the high water mark and became flooded seasonally, and that works were needed to prevent the same.
- In ensuing correspondence, KMC declined to proceed with the acquisition, leading to institution of the Petition before the High Court for directions to complete the acquisition.
- The High Court allowed the Writ Petitions, which was challenged before the Supreme Court.
Allowing the Appeal, the Court laid down the following key principles, and findings on facts:
- Whilst preparing a draft plan under the MRTP Act, the Authority ought to carefully apply its mind to the question of suitability of land that is proposed to be reserved and reserved for a particular public purpose.
On facts, that The Planning Authority had apparently failed to apply itself in this manner
- The “steps” required to be taken under Section 127, failing which acquisition lapses, cannot extend to mere passing of resolution by the Municipal Corporation to acquire the land or issuance of communication to the State to commence such acquisition but, instead, must mean declaration under Section 6 of the 1894 Act or, now, under S.19 of the 2013 Act.
On facts, since the declaration under the above provisions had not been issued, the acquisition had lapsed.
- The High Court cannot issue a mandamus to the State to complete an acquisition which has already lapsed.
- The notification required under S.127(2) regarding lapse of acquisition is only a consequential and procedural act, and has nothing to do with lapsing of reservation by operation of law. Therefore, the finding of the High Court that since the lapse had not been notified in the Gazette as required under S.127(2) of the MRTP Act, and hence the State could be directed to complete the acquisition is incorrect.