29 Jun 2121

The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment, and Validation) Act, 2019 was found to be a valid legislative activity that adhered to Article 254 of the Indian Constitution's four corners

Case : G. Mohan Rao & Ors. v. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1411 of 2020

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari

Decided on : 29 Jun 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Section 105 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894

Section 105, 105A of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013

Section 105­A of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014 

Section 4(1) of the Welfare Schemes Act, 1978

Section 3, 21, of the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997

Section 15, 68 of the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001

National Highways Act, 1956

Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019

Article 254, 14, 254(2), 19, 21, 300A, 245, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 246, 13, 254(1), 111, 200, 256 of the Constitution of India

Brief Facts & Procedural History

1. Land is a valuable resource that is required for a country's growth. Individual property rights, on the other hand, have always had a prominent position in the hierarchy of rights. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894, with the short title “An Act to amend the law for the acquisition of land for public purposes and Companies,” was enacted as a uniform law for the entire country to resolve this apparent conflict between individuals' right to property and the State's duty to holistic development.

2. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was in effect throughout the United States. We adopted the idea of power allocation and legislative competence of the Union and States after 1950 when the Constitution went into effect. The Union List (List­I), State List (List­II), and Concurrent List (List­III) were used to distinguish it. The Union and the States have concurrent legislative authority over the issues mentioned in the Concurrent List. The State of Tamil Nadu carved out three public objectives for which a distinct land acquisition legislation was envisioned as a result of this. Highways, industry, and Harijan welfare programmes were the three sectors. The Tamil Nadu legislative assembly responded by passing the Tamil Nadu Harijan Welfare Schemes Act, 1978, the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997, and the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001. It should be mentioned that, in addition to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the area of land acquisition was also controlled by another Parliamentary action, the National Highways Act of 1956, which was a unique law. This Act was created to allow for the declaration of certain roadways as national highways, as well as things related to such declaration, such as the jurisdiction of the competent authority to purchase lands needed for national highways. Because there was a law passed by the Parliament in the same field concerning land acquisition, the State sought Presidential approval under Article 254 of the Constitution of India to avoid repugnancy, and the aforementioned State Acts, therefore, triumphed in the State.

3. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was judged to be insufficient in several areas, particularly measures about compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement, and as a result, Parliament passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 included a special provision – Section 105 – declaring that this Act does not apply to certain enactments passed by Parliament on property acquisition that are listed in the Fourth Schedule. This was subject to sub­section (3), which gave the Central Government the authority to issue a notification within one year of the Act's commencement, notifying that the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 would apply to cases of land acquisition under the enactments listed in the 4 Schedule relating to compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement with the exclusions or adjustments that are prescribed, being helpful to impacted families. The Central Government then extended the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 relating to compensation (First Schedule), rehabilitation and resettlement (Second Schedule), and infrastructure amenities (Third Schedule) to the enactments listed in the Fourth Schedule of the Act (which included the National Highways Act, 1956) as well, extending the benefit of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 to all categories of acquirers regardless of the reason.

4. The State of Tamil Nadu also sought to safeguard and reserve its three State enactments — Welfare Schemes Act, 1978, Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997, and Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001 — from the operation of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 based on Section 105 read with the Fourth Schedule of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013, as it deemed its legislations to be expedient. A State modification to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013, namely the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014, was enacted for this purpose, and Section 105A was incorporated into the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013. The purpose of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014 was to make the requirements of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 inapplicable to land acquisition under the three-state enactments listed not the 5 Schedule of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013, which were also introduced by the same State amendment Act 2014. As a result, the State Assembly added a new Schedule 5 to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013, which contained the three-state statutes. The retroactive date was set by the State Assembly to prevent the acquisitions made under the three-state statutes from being declared unlawful owing to repugnancy after the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 took effect. However, as shown infra, this legislative effort to safeguard and maintain the three-state enactments by inserting Section 105A and the 5th Schedule to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 proved to be disastrous.

5. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014, as well as the 1997 and Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001s, were challenged in the Madras High Court of Judicature, principally based on repugnancy with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 and violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India owing to evident arbitrariness and discrimination in the application of the State Acts. The High Court issued an interim order allowing the acquisition procedures to continue with the condition that no final ruling would be issued and that the status quo regarding ownership of the land would be preserved.

6. The challenge against the President's lack of application of mind and breach of Article 14 of the Constitution of India was dismissed by the High Court in a decision and order. However, it was determined that the State enactments had become repugnant to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 and hence invalid. As a result, the three enactments would not be reactivated by the later enactment of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014. The High Court ruled that the State enactments could only be resurrected by the Legislative Assembly re-enacting them and the President giving his consent to them again, as required by Article 254 of the Constitution of India. As a result of the judgement, all outstanding acquisition procedures under the three enactments on or after September 27, 2013, were invalidated. The stated decision is being challenged in separate but related actions before this Court, and we may refer to it at any time when the necessity for a ruling in the current case arises.

7. Using a legislative instrument, the State Government attempted to resurrect three enactments that the High Court had declared invalid and unlawful. On the floor of the legislative assembly, it introduced a bill to restore the functioning of the Tamil Nadu Acquisition for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act 1978, the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act 1997, and the Tamil Nadu Highways Act 2001. The bill was titled "The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019" and was enacted by the Assembly. This Act was forwarded to the President for his assent under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India, and he gave it. Notably, the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 was applied retroactively to validate all pending acquisitions under State enactments on and after that date, which had previously been invalidated by the High Court. The aforementioned Act of 2019 is being challenged in the current batch of petitions on the reasons outlined.

The Issue of the Case

Whether the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 has been lawfully passed and therefore succeeds in resurrecting the State Acts ruled null and invalid by the High Court because they conflict with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013, as well as revising the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 and validating acts performed under it?

The Observations of the Court/Commission

1. Honourable Supreme Court of India observes that the High Court correctly explained the concept of repugnancy under Article 254 of the Constitution of India for the limited purpose of this case and without impinging on other contentions, including the outcome of cases pending by way of special leave against the said judgement, but did not apply it in the same manner to identify the actual existence of repugnancy between the State Acts & law made by Parliament. Assuming the existence of repugnancy, as the High Court did, the sole question before the High Court was how to revive objectionable State legislation. While conducting its investigation, it discovered that Section 105A of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2014 was an unconstitutional manner of resurrection and demanded that it be re-enacted under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India. This is the only substantial foundation for the High Court's decision. The High Court did not rule out resurrection and validation at all, instead of basing the investigation on strict adherence to Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India, which is the only method for state legislation to triumph over a subsequent law passed by Parliament on the same topic.

2. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that under Article 254 of the Constitution of India, look at the notion of repugnancy and how it works. The idea of repugnancy is intended to avoid the execution of two opposing laws on the same field, resulting in inconsistency and confusion. Naturally, when a scenario like that arises, the law's subjects cannot be expected to rush to court to determine which of two laws will apply to them. As a result, the Constitution provides an unequivocal answer in the shape of Article 254 of the Constitution of India, which states that in such circumstances, Parliamentary law should prevail and the subjects should be controlled by it. It does not, however, end there. It goes beyond this fundamental declaration by allowing the legislature to which the repugnant legislation belongs (the State legislature) to resurrect it by getting Presidential approval, therefore bolstering the State legislature's ability to deal with the consequences of repugnancy. It is important to note that Article 254 of the Constitution of India does not require that state law and legislation enacted by the legislature be identical in every way. Because doing so would render the entire goal of resurrection by Presidential assent a useless exercise since any State would have no reason to implement legislation that is identical to the law passed by Parliament. It (the State) would rather obey the legislation enacted by Parliament.

3. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the State legislature dutifully passed the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 (State law) on a concurrent list topic in the presence of Parliamentary legislation (Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013) and gained the President's assent to the same after properly presenting the State law to him and expressing the reason for reserving it for his assent. 

4. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the act of bringing out any inconsistency after a validating Act has received the President's assent is otiose. Because the whole point of Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India is to resurrect and operationalize a repugnant Act or its objectionable contents. Because of this, the states have concurrent authority over topics in List III, according to the Constitution. The Court is left with nothing to gain by discovering repugnancy between the laws after fully complying with the criteria of Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India because the same has already been discovered, acknowledged, and validated as per the Constitution's punishment under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India. It would seem natural to participate in such an activity. Furthermore, the Court should not strike down a statute enacted under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India solely because it is repugnant. In such situations, repugnancy is considered to have been constitutionalized. To put it another way, the aim of engaging in the exercise, according to clause (2) of Article 254 of the Constitution of India, presupposes the presence of repugnancy and is meant to overcome it. As a result, the petitioners' attempt to draw attention to repugnancy, in this case, is misguided, weak, and insignificant.

5. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the legislature has not attempted to conceal the provisions, since the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 is separated into three sections, each of which is dedicated to the relevant state legislation.

6. Referring to the case of Girnar Traders (3) vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (2011) 3 SCC 1, for all practical reasons, the provisions imported in legislation by way of reference constitute a part of the legislation itself, according to the Honourable Supreme Court of India.

Referring to the case of Ujagar Prints & Ors. (II) vs. Union of India & Ors. (1989) 3 SCC 488, when considering the effects of later amendments to a statute referred to in legislation, the Court quickly pointed out that referring an Act or its provisions into another Act effectively amounts to the re-enactment of the existing provisions at the time of reference.

7. Referring to the case of Krishna Chandra Gangopadhyaya & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. (1975) 2 SCC 302, the Court accepted that there is no constitutional bar to legislation via incorporation and that it is in conformity with the constitutional law's grant of authority to instrumentalities clothed with plenary powers (the State legislature in this case).

8. Honourable Supreme Court of India also observes that the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 is a deliberate endeavour by the State legislature to put four material components of land acquisition under the three State enactments, including compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement, and infrastructural facilities, on par with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013. Certain aspects of the stated law enacted by Parliament have undoubtedly been overlooked, but that discussion is not relevant to us because the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997 and the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001 are already being considered in the batch of SLPs mentioned above. To suggest that failing to import all elements of the legislation established by Parliament into State enactments results in the flaws pointed out by the High Court not being removed is a clear misunderstanding of the High Court's decision.

9. Referring to the case of State of Tamil Nadu vs. State of Kerala & Anr. (2014) 12 SCC 696, expounded that, one of the criteria for evaluating whether a decision is nullified is if the law and the judgement are incompatible and irreconcilable to the point that they cannot be reconciled. Using this criterion, there is no incompatibility between the High Court decision and the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019. The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 is a development, not a repetition or retreat of the previous stance.

10. Referring to the case of Shri Prithvi Cotton Mills Ltd. & Anr. vs. Broach Borough Municipality & Ors. (1969) 2 SCC 283, there is no evidence in the High Court ruling that the Court would have reached the same conclusion if the circumstances were different today, which stipulates that the final question should be whether the Court would have delivered the same judgement if the circumstances were different. For the time being, the approach outlined in the Constitution of India 254(2) has been followed.

11. Referring to the case of Kaiser-I-Hind Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. vs. National Textile Corpn. (Maharashtra North) Ltd. & Ors. (2002) 8 SCC 182, on closer inspection, however, the trust is misguided. In that instance, the Court was examining a request for assent by the State Government without stating the specific statute passed by Parliament that was allegedly in conflict with state law. In light of this, the Court noted that Article 254 of the Constitution of India mandates that the State law be presented to the President for consideration for the State law to prevail over specific legislation enacted by the Parliament. In other words, there can't be a blanket rejection of all legislation enacted by the Parliament on the issue. The Court went on to state that judicial review of assent does not allow for an examination of whether the assent was delivered correctly, incorrectly, or erroneously.

12. Referring to the case of State of Kerala & Ors. vs. Mar Appraem Kuri Company Limited & Anr. (2012) 7 SCC 106, there was no Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, 2013 in effect at the time, and when it became, the State enactments would become odious once more. Even this argument, in our opinion, is unsustainable. Legislation is considered to be “made” when it receives Presidential assent. The word "made" or "make" is used throughout the chapter on federal relations in the Constitution to allude to legislative activity. Making law entails a well-defined process that concludes with the President's consent under Article 111 or 254 of the Constitution of India (if the legislation is on the same subject matter) or the Governor's assent under Article 200 of the Constitution of India. Articles 111, 200, and 254 of the Constitution of India are all part of the constitutionally mandated legislative procedure.

13. The idea of "commencement" is also pertinent to this issue. The legislative procedure does not include the commencement of the legislation, unlike the formation of law. Rather, it is a result of the legislative process's successful conclusion. To put it another way, commencement is a question that follows the legislative process and intent rather than overlapping with it. The date of making (assent), a backdate, or even a future date can all be used to determine when a law takes effect. However, it has no bearing on the fact that the legislation has entered the statute book, and the provisions relating to repugnancy, as well as other provisions of the chapter on legislative relations between the Union and the State, have become effective from that point forward, as far as the date of making is concerned. Thus, the important point of time for determining repugnancy would be the date of making, i.e., the date of consent, rather than the date of start.

The Decision Held by the Court/Commission

Honourable Supreme Court of India held that

1. The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 is a valid legislative activity that is compatible with and within the four corners of Article 254 of the Constitution of India of the Indian Constitution, as well as the High Court ruling.

2. The petitioners herein may raise all additional questions relating to the legality of State enactments not addressed in this judgement in the other outstanding cases deriving from the High Court's decision, including by getting themselves impleaded therein.

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