Land Acquisition Dispute: Competent Authority’s Compliance Under Scrutiny

In a significant legal case before the Supreme Court of India, the Competent Authority’s compliance with statutory provisions in a land acquisition dispute is under scrutiny. The case involves unresolved objections raised by landowners regarding the acquisition for a proposed railway line. Despite finding breaches, the court decided on compensation based on current market value. Stay tuned for more insights on this complex legal matter.


  • The Competent Authority received written objections from the Appellants challenging the proposed acquisition on 06.04.2011
  • The Competent Authority replied to the objections on 15.07.2011, directing the Appellants to appear for a personal hearing with necessary proofs and documents.
  • The Appellants filed Special Civil Applications before the Gujarat High Court challenging the acquisition proceedings.
  • The Competent Authority granted a personal hearing on 30.07.2011, which was treated as a further inquiry.
  • The objections raised during the personal hearing on 30.07.2011 were similar to those raised earlier on 06.04.2011.
  • The Appellants failed to produce material supporting their objection that the proposed railway line was not advisable.
  • The Competent Authority submitted a Report to the Central Government on 03.01.2012 under Section 20E(1) of the Act.
  • The Appellants contended that an order was required to be passed on the objections under Section 20D(2) of the Act.
  • The issue raised was that no formal order had been communicated regarding the disposal of objections.
  • The High Court expressed concerns about the handling of the matter by the Competent Authority.
  • The Competent Authority failed to pass an order after the personal hearing on 30.07.2011, and the objections remained unresolved.

Also Read: Compassionate Appointment Case: Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling


  • Consideration of compliance with Section 20D(2) by the Competent Authority
  • Potential non-compliance implications in the present case

Also Read: Tokas v. Insurance Company: Multiplier Application and Compensation Enhancement


  • The land acquisition proceedings in the case were done in accordance with Chapter IV A of the Railways Act, 1989.
  • Chapter IV A of the Railways Act, 1989 is self-contained.
  • The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 should not be applied to interpret the provisions of the Railways Act, especially since Section 20N of the Railways Act excludes the applicability of the Land Acquisition Act to acquisitions under the Railways Act.
  • The process for filing objections under Section 20D(2) of the Railways Act involves two steps.
  • Firstly, objections can be filed within 30 days of the Central Government’s publication of the Notification under Section 20A, notifying its intention to acquire land.

Also Read: Land Vesting in State Government: Exemption Denial Case


  • The High Court found a file noting rejecting objections only on the ground of the project being for public utility.
  • The Competent Authority failed to pass a reasoned order on the objections raised by the land-owners.
  • The right to file objections under Section 20D of the Railways Act is analogous to Section 5-A of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
  • Non-compliance with Section 20D(2) would invalidate further steps in the acquisition process.
  • An order must be passed after providing a personal hearing, and any decision prior to that would be invalid.
  • Internal file notings or reports do not constitute communicated decisions and do not bind the affected party.
  • The Railways Act is an expropriatory legislation with strict procedures under Section 20D.
  • Natural justice principles must be adhered to in the objection process.
  • The Appellants raised concerns on a specific stretch of land, while most of the project has been completed.
  • The Appellants are willing to accept compensation at the current land acquisition rate.
  • The Competent Authority must act in accordance with mandatory statutory provisions.
  • Any person interested in the land may object to the acquisition within 30 days of publication of the notification under Section 20A.
  • Objections must be made in writing to the competent authority and include the grounds for objection.
  • The competent authority must publish the substance of the notification in local newspapers.
  • The competent authority may specify the floor price of the land if the minimum land value is not specified under the Indian Stamp Act.
  • The competent authority must consider the intended land use category and surrounding land values in determining the market value of the land.
  • Specialists may be used to assess the market value of buildings, immovable property, and attached assets.
  • Experienced persons in fields like agriculture or forestry may be used to determine the value of trees and plants.
  • After hearing objections, the competent authority may allow or disallow the objections through an order which is final.
  • If no objections are made or objections are disallowed, the Central Government may declare the land for acquisition under Section 20A.
  • Upon publication of the declaration, the land vests absolutely in the Central Government free from encumbrances.
  • A statutory authority discharging a quasi-judicial function is required to pass a reasoned order after due application of mind.
  • Formation of opinion as regards public purpose and suitability thereof must be preceded by the consideration of relevant factors.
  • The State Government must apply its mind not only on objections filed by the landowner but also on the report submitted by the Collector.
  • Transparency in decision-making makes decision-makers subject to broader scrutiny and less prone to errors.
  • The decision on objections should be available in a self-contained, speaking, and reasoned order.
  • Reasons cannot be added later to an order as it would be akin to putting old wine in new bottles.
  • The necessity of giving reasons in support of decisions is part of ‘due process’ and virtually a part of human rights.
  • Recording of reasons operates as a valid restraint on any possible arbitrary exercise of power.
  • Notings in a file do not have the sanction of law to be an effective order, and are merely opinions for internal use.
  • The right to file objections and be granted a personal hearing cannot be reduced to an empty formality by the Competent Authority.
  • The mandate of the law requires the order on objections to be passed after a personal hearing is granted.
  • Quasi-judicial authorities must record reasons in support of their conclusions to avoid any arbitrary exercise of power.
  • The requirement to record reasons is now virtually a component of human rights and human rights jurisprudence.
  • Despite finding that the Respondents breached mandatory provisions of the Act, the court decided not to set aside the entire acquisition proceedings.
  • The relief granted is in the form of compensation to be assessed under Section 20G of the Act based on the current market value of the land.
  • The compensation is specific to the Appellants in this case and will not serve as a precedent for other landowners who did not challenge the acquisition proceedings in court.


  • All pending Applications disposed of.
  • Competent Authority to compute compensation based on current market value of land.
  • Remaining 125 km stretch land-owners satisfied with awarded amount.
  • Civil Appeals allowed.


Case Number: C.A. No.-006270-006273 / 2019

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