Supreme Court Asserts Prompt Compensation Rights in Land Acquisition

Supreme Court ruling emphasizes citizens' right to prompt compensation in land acquisition cases, rejecting delays as "unacceptable."

The recent Supreme Court ruling on land acquisition and compensation underscores the significance of constitutional rights despite the Right to Property no longer being a Fundamental Right. The Court's observations during the hearing of a contempt petition against the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) highlight the State's obligation to respect citizens' rights. The case, Sudha Bhalla alias Sudha Punchi & Ors. v. Rakesh Kumar Singh & Ors., involved the delay in compensating landowners following a land acquisition. The Court criticized the practice of depriving citizens of land for extended periods before offering compensation as a gesture of "graciousness." Such actions, the Court emphasized, are unacceptable as they violate citizens' constitutional rights.

The contempt petition was filed after the GDA failed to compensate the petitioners in line with a Supreme Court order from May 2023. The GDA eventually released an award of Rs. 407 Crores, but the petitioners contested the calculation, arguing they should be compensated for agricultural land, not residential land. During the proceedings, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing GDA officials, defended their actions, claiming no violation of the Court's order occurred. However, Senior Advocate Dama Sheshadri Naidu, representing the petitioners, contended that the award was invalid, alleging procedural irregularities and lack of notice.

The Supreme Court, while dismissing the contempt petition, expressed concern over the delay and apparent disregard for citizens' rights. Despite not finding the GDA in contempt, the Court highlighted the need for a thorough investigation into the matter. The Court questioned the justification provided by the State for the extended delay in recognizing the land's status and the subsequent compensation. It emphasized that the State's duty to compensate citizens for land acquisition cannot be perceived as an act of generosity. The Court reiterated the importance of Article 300A of the Constitution, which recognizes the right to property.

The ruling serves as a reminder of the State's obligation to respect citizens' constitutional rights, even in matters of land acquisition. It emphasizes the need for transparency and adherence to legal procedures in such cases. The Court's directive to address any challenges to the award within six months underscores the importance of timely justice delivery. The case highlights the judiciary's role in upholding citizens' rights and ensuring accountability in governmental actions.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court's ruling in Sudha Bhalla alias Sudha Punchi & Ors. v. Rakesh Kumar Singh & Ors. reaffirms the significance of constitutional rights, particularly in matters concerning land acquisition. It underscores the State's responsibility to respect citizens' rights and ensures fair compensation without undue delay. The case serves as a precedent for upholding citizens' rights and promoting transparency and accountability in governmental actions related to land acquisition.