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Union Of India And Others (And Other Petitions) Versus Raghubir Singh (decd. By Mrs.)

1989 (5) TMI 54 - SUPREME Court

Whether, Under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as amended by the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984, the claimants are entitled to solatium at 30 per cent. of the market value irrespective of the dates oil which the acquisition proceedings were initiated or the dates on which the award had been passed ? - Held that:- What Parliament intends to say is that the benefit of section 30(2) will be available to an award by the Collector or the court made between the aforesaid two dates or to an .....

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aforesaid two dates. If the proceeding has passed to the stage of appeal before the High Court or the Supreme Court, it is at that stage that the benefit of section 30(2) will be applied. But, in every case, the award of the Collector or of the court must have been made between April 30, 1982 and September 24, 1984. - Civil Appeal No. 2839, 2840 of 1989, 834, 835 of 1986, - Dated:- 16-5-1989 - Judge(s) : RANGANATH MISRA., S. NATARAJAN JJ. S.L.P. (Civil) No. 6477 of 1983, W.P. Nos. 204, W.P. Nos .....

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Civil Appeal No. 4404 of 1985, S.L.P. (Civil) Nos. 8643, S.L.P. (Civil) Nos. 8661 of 1985, S.L.P. (Civil) Nos. 12487 of 1985, S.L.P. (Civil) Nos. 8829 of 1985, S.L.P. (Civil) Nos. 10180 of 1985 decided on May 16, 1989 Senior Advocates: T.S. Krishnamoorthy Iyer, B.R.L. Iyengar, B.R.L. Iyengar, M.S. Gujaral, F.S. Nariman and A.K. Ganguli, for the parties K. Parasan, Attorney-General of india for the parties. Other Advocates: K. Swamy, C.V. Subba Rao, R.D. Agrawala, P.Parameswaran, O.P. Sharma, R.C .....

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by R. S. PATHAK CJ 1. -The question of law referred to us for decision in these cases is : Whether, Under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as amended by the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984, the claimants are entitled to solatium at 30 per cent. of the market value irrespective of the dates oil which the acquisition proceedings were initiated or the dates on which the award had been passed ? It would suffice if we briefly refer to the facts in the Civil Appeals arising out of Special Leave .....

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preferred an appeal to the High Court claiming further compensation. During the pendency of the appeal, the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 1982, was introduced in Parliament on April 30, 1982, and became law as the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984, when it received the assent of the President on September 24, 1984. The High Court disposed of the appeal by its judgment and order dated December 6, 1984. While it raised the rate of compensation, it also raised the rate of interest payabl .....

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e view that the question set forth above required re-examination by a larger Bench of five judges. It was further directed that the other questions involved in the petitions would be considered after the aforesaid question had been resolved by the larger Bench. The two decisions referred to in the order of the learned judges are K. Kamalajammanniavaru (decd. by Lrs.) v. Special Land Acquisition Officer [1985] 1 SCC 582 (SC) decided by 0. Chinnappa Reddy and Sabyasachi Mukharji JJ. on February 14 .....

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of the Amendment Act specifies the category of cases to which the amended rate of solatium is attracted. In K. Kamalajammanniavaru [1985] 1 SCC 582 (SC), the two learned judges held that sub-section (2) of section 30 referred to orders made by the High Court or the Supreme Court in appeals against an award made between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984, and that, therefore, solatium at 30 percent. alone pursuant to sub-section (2) of section. 30 had to be awarded in such cases. In Bhag Sing .....

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e, State of Punjab V. Mohinder Singh [1986] 1 SCC 365 decided by S. Murtaza Fazal Ali, A. Varadaraj an and Ranganath Misra JJ. on May 1, 1985. At the outset, a preliminary objection has been raised by Shri B. R. L. Iyengar to the validity of the reference of these cases to a larger Bench He contends that the mere circumstance that a Bench of two learned judges finds itself in doubt about the correctness of the view taken by a Bench of three learned judges should not provide reason for referring .....

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ume of the law governing the lives of citizens and regulating the functions of the State flows from, the decisions of superior courts. There was a time, observed Lord Reid, when it was thought almost indecent to suggest that judges make law they only declare it ... But we do not believe in fairy tales any more. In countries such as the United Kingdom where Parliament, as the legislative organ, is supreme and stands at the apex of the constitutional structure of the State, the role played by judi .....

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P 54 There is no judicial body in the country by which the validity of an Act of Parliament could be questioned. An act of the Legislature is superior in authority to any court of law. And Ungoed-Thomas J. in Cheney V. Conn [1968] 1 All ER 779 (Ch. D), referred to a parliamentary statute as (at p. 782) the highest form of law. . . which prevails over every other form of law . The position is substantially different under a written Constitution such as the one which governs us. The Constitution o .....

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to examine the competence and validity of legislation, both in point of legislative competence as well as its consistency with fundamental rights. In this regard, the courts in India possess a power not given to the English courts. Where a statute is declared invalid in India, it cannot be reinstated unless constitutional sanction is obtained therefor by a constitutional amendment or an appropriately modified version of the statute is enacted which accords with constitutional prescription. The .....

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aj Narain [1976] 2 SCC 347; Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India [1980] 2 SCC 591 and recently in S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India [1987] 1 SCR 435. With this impressive expanse of judicial power, it is only right that the superior courts in India should be conscious of the enormous responsibility which rests on them. This is specially true of the Supreme Court, for, as the highest court in the entire judicial system, the law declared by it is, by article 141 of the Constitution, binding on .....

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ng principle in future cases. In this latter aspect lies their particular value in developing the jurisprudence of the law. The doctrine of binding precedent has the merit of promoting a certainty and consistency in judicial decisions, and enables an organic development of the law, besides providing assurance to the individual as to the consequence of transactions forming part of his daily affairs. And, therefore, the need for a clear and consistent enunciation of legal principles In the decisio .....

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een experience , and again when he declared in another study that the law is forever adopting new principles from life at one end, and sloughing off old ones at the other. Explaining the conceptual import of what Holmes had said, Julius Stone elaborated that it is by the introduction of new extra-legal propositions emerging from experience to serve as premises, or by experience-guided choice between competing legal propositions, rather than by the operation of logic upon existing legal propositi .....

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alities of an indeterminacy such as fairness or reasonableness but also among propositions from outside the ruling law, corresponding to the empirical knowledge or accepted values of present time and place, relevant to the dispensation of justice within the new parameters. The universe of problems presented for judicial choice-making at the growing points of the law is an expanding universe. The areas brought under control by the accumulation of past judicial choice may be large. Yet the areas n .....

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, and, no problems at all, were perceived. The extensiveness of the areas for judicial choice at a particular time is a, function not only of the accumulation of past decisions, not only of changes in the environment, but also of new insights and perspectives both on old problems and on the new problems thrown up by changes entering the cultural and social heritage. Not infrequently, in the nature of things, there is a gravity-heavy inclination to follow the groove set by precedential law. Yet, .....

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e time enabling it to make constant readjustments and occasional radical changes under the pressure of infinite and variable human desires. The reconciliation suggested by Lord Reid in The Judge as Law-Maker lies in keeping both objectives in view, that the law shall be certain, and that it shall be just and shall move with the times. An elaboration of his opinion is contained in Myers v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1965] AC 1001, 1021 (HL), where he expressed the need for change in the law .....

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s. We cannot introduce arbitrary conditions or limitations : that must be left to legislation. And if we do in effect change the law, we ought; in my opinion, only to do that in cases where our decision will produce some finality or certainty. Whatever the degree of success in resolving the dilemma, the court would do well to ensure that although the new legal norm chosen in response to the changed social climate represents a departure from the previously ruling norm it must, nevertheless, carry .....

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nce crumbled. There will be found among some of the areas of the law, norms selected by a judicial choice educated in the experience and values of a world which had passed away 40 years ago. The social forces which demand attention to the cauldron of change from which a new society is emerging appear to call for new perceptions and new perspectives. The recognition that the times are changing and that there is occasion for a new jurisprudence to take birth is evidenced by what this court said in .....

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ty of the law to the changing demands of society. The question then is not whether the Supreme Court is bound by its own previous decisions. It is not. The question is under what circumstances and within what limits and in what manner should the highest court overturn its own pronouncements. . In an examination of this question, it would perhaps be appropriate to refer to the response of other jurisdictions, specially those with which the judicial system in India has borne an historical relation .....

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L). Apparently bowing to the pressure of a reality forced upon it by reason of a rapidly gathering change in the prevailing socioeconomic structure, on July 26, 1966, Lord Gardiner L. C., made the following statement on behalf of himself and the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (see [1966] 3 All ER 77 (Note)) : Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It provides at least some degree of cer .....

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do so. In this connection, they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which contracts, settlements of property and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the special need for certainty as to the criminal law. Since then, the House of Lords has framed guidelines in a series of cases decided up to 1975 and the guidelines have been summarised in Dr. Alan Paterson s Law Lords [1982] pp. 156-157. He refers to several criteria articulated by Lord Reid in .....

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3] AC 280, 303 (HL) and Indyka v. Indyka [1969] 1 AC 33, 69. 3. A decision concerning questions of construction of statutes or other documents ought not to be overruled except in rare and exceptional cases (the construction criterion). 4. (a) A decision ought not to be overruled if it would be impracticable for the Lords to foresee the consequences of departing from it (the unforeseeable consequences criterion) (Steadman v. Steadman [1976] AC 536,542 (HL). (b) A decision ought not to be overrule .....

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cided. There must be some additional reasons to justify such a step (the precedent merely wrong criterion) (Knuller v. DPP [1973] AC 435,455). 6. A decision ought to be overruled if it causes such great uncertainty in practice that the parties advisers are unable to give any clear indication as to what the courts will hold the law to be (the rectification of uncertainty criterion). 7. A decision ought to be overruled if, in relation to some broad issue or principle, it is not considered just or .....

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wever, the Law Lords seemed to prefer to distinguish the earlier decisions rather than overrule them. The High Court of Australia, the highest court in the Commonwealth, has reserved to itself the power to reconsider its own decision, but has laid down that the power should not be exercised upon a mere suggestion that some or all the members of the later court would arrive at a different conclusion if the matter were res integra. In the Tramways case [1914] 18 CLR 54, Griffith C. J., while doing .....

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, or is contrary to a decision of another court which this court is bound to follow; not, I think, upon a mere suggestion, that some or all of the members of the later court might arrive at a different conclusion if the matter was res integra. Otherwise there would be grave danger of want of continuity in the interpretation of law. In the same case, Barton J. observed at p. 69 (see AIR 1955 SC 697). .... I would say that I never thought that it was not open to this court to review its previous d .....

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njurious to the public interest. In the United States of America, the Supreme Court has explicitly overruled its prior decision in a number of cases and reference will be found to them in the judgment of Brandeis J. in State of Washington v. Dawson and Co. [1924] 264 U. S. 219 ; 68 L. Ed. 646, where he said (see AIR 1955 SC 671 ). The doctrine of stare decisis should not deter us from overruling that case and those which follow it. The decisions are recent ones. They have not been acquiesced in. .....

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d Gas Co. [1931] 285 US 393 ; 76 L. Ed. 815, Brandeis J. observed (see AIR 1955 SC 671 ) : Stare decisis is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled, right. Compare -National Bank of Genesee v. Whitney [1881] 103 US 99 ; 26 L. Ed. 443-444. This is commonly true even where the error is a matter of serious concern, provided correction can be had by legislation. But in cases involving the Federal Constitution, where correction .....

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1929 PC 84, 87, it is declared that it would hesitate long before disturbing a solemn decision by a previous Board, which raised an identical or even a similar issue for determination and reiterated that reservation in Attorney-General of Ontario v. Canada Temperance Federation, AIR 1946 PC 88, and Phanindra Chandra Neogy v. The King, AIR 1949 PC 117; 76 IA 10. These cases from England, Australia and the United States were considered by this court in Bengal Immunity Co. Ltd. v. State of Bihar, .....

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[1953] SCR 1069. The remaining three voted to the contrary. Das, Acting C. J., speaking for himself and on behalf of Bose, Bhagwati and Jafar Imam JJ. preferred the approach adopted by the United States Supreme Court since, in the view of that learned judge, the position in India approximated more closely to that obtaining in the United States rather than to the position in England, where Parliament could rectify the situation by a simple majority, and to that in Australia, where the mistake co .....

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ned judge referred to the far-reaching effect of the earlier decision in United Motors case [1953] SCR 1069, on the general body of the consuming public, and stated that the error committed in the earlier decision would result in perpetuating a tax burden erroneously imposed on the people, giving rise to a consequence manifestly and wholly unauthorised. The learned judge observed (at p. 673): It is not an ordinary pronouncement declaring the rights of two private individuals inter se . It involv .....

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ncement of this court. But if the previous decision was plainly erroneous, he pointed out, there was a duty on the court to say so and not perpetuate the mistake. The appeal to the principle of stare decisis was rejected on the ground that (a) the decision intended to be overruled was a very recent decision and it did not involve overruling a series of decisions, and (b) the doctrine of stare decisis was not an inflexible rule,and must, in any event, yield where following it would result in perp .....

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r cases. One instance where such overruling could be permissible was a situation where contextual values giving birth to the earlier view had altered substantially since. In Maganlal Chhagganlal P. Ltd. v. Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay [1975] 1 SCR 1, 26, he explained (AIR 1974 SC 2009, 2042) : Some new aspects may come to light and it may become essential to cover fresh ground to meet the new situations or to overcome difficulties which did not manifest themselves or were not taken in .....

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its pristine generality (see Selected Writings, p. 31 ). As in life, so in law, things are not static. In Lt. Col. Khajoor Singh v. Union of India [1961] 2 SCR 828, the majority of this court emphasised that the court should not depart from an interpretation given in an earlier judgment of the court unless there was fair amount of unanimity that the earlier decision was manifestly wrong. In Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v. CIT [1965] 56 ITR 365 (SC) ; [1965] 2 SCR 908, 921, this court observed that a re .....

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ling character of the considerations urged in support of the contrary view. There can be no doubt, as was observed in Girdhari Lal Gupta v. D. N. Mehta [1971] 3 SCR 748, that where an earlier relevant statutory provision has not been brought to the notice of the court, the decision may be reviewed, or as in Pillani Investment Corporation Ltd. v. ITO [1972] 83 ITR 217 (SC) [1972] 2 SCR 502, if vital point was not considered. A more compendious examination of the problem was undertaken in Keshav M .....

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rlier occasion, did some patent aspects of the question remain unnoticed, or was the attention of the court not drawn to any relevant and material statutory provision, or was any previous decision of this court bearing on the point not noticed ? Is the court hearing such plea fairly unanimous that there is such an error in the earlier view ? What would be the impact of the error on the general administration of law or on public good ? Has the earlier decision been followed on subsequent occasion .....

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rtance has been laid on observing the finality of decisions rendered by the Constitution Bench of this court and in Ganga Sugar Corpn. Ltd. v. State of Uttar Pradesh [1980] 1 SCR 769, 782 ; AIR 1980 SC 286, 294, the court held against the finality only where the subject was of such fundamental importance to national life or the reasoning is so plainly erroneous in the light of later thought that it is wiser to be ultimately right rather than to be consistently wrong . It is not necessary to refe .....

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of a larger number of judges. Doubt has arisen on the point because of certain observations made by 0. Chinnappa Reddy J. in Javed Ahmed Abdul Hamid Pawala v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1985 SC 231. Earlier, a Division Bench of two judges, of whom he was one, had expressed the view in T. V. Vatheeswaran v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 1983 SC 361, that delay exceeding two years in the execution of a sentence of death should be considered sufficient to entitle a person under sentence of death to invo .....

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ld be laid down in the matter. In direct disagreement with the view in T. V. Vatheeswaran, AIR 1983 SC 361, the learned judges said that account had to be taken of the time occupied by proceedings in the High Court and in the Supreme Court and before the executive authorities, and it was relevant to consider whether the delay was attributable to the conduct of the accused. As member of another Bench of two judges, in Javed Ahmed Abdul Hamid Pawala, AIR 1985 SC 231, 0. Chinnappa Reddy J. question .....

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to purport to overrule the decision of a Division Bench of two judges. Vide Young v., Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd. [1944] 2 All ER 293 (CA). It may be otherwise where a Full Bench or a Constitution Bench does so. It is pertinent to record here that because of the doubt cast on the validity of the opinion in Sher Singh, AIR 1983 SC 465, the question of the effect of delay on the execution of a death sentence was referred to a Division Bench of five judges, and in Triveniben v. State of Gujarat, AI .....

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cannot be doubted that in order to promote consistency and certainty in the law laid down by a superior court, the ideal condition would be that the entire court should, sit in all cases to decide questions of law, and for that reason the Supreme Court of the United States does so. But, having regard to the volume of work demanding the attention of the court, it has been found necessary in India as a general rule of practice and convenience that the court should sit in Divisions, each Division .....

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y in the development of the law and its contemporary status, that the statement of the law by a Division Bench is considered binding on a Division Bench of the same or lesser number of judges. This principle has been followed in India for several generations by judges. We may refer to a few of the recent cases on the point. In John Martin v. State of West Bengal [1975] 3 SCR 211, a Division Bench of three judges found it right to follow the law declared in Haradhan Saha v. State of West Bengal [ .....

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age (Decd. through Lrs.) [1981] 4 SCC 143, this court expressly stated that the view taken on a point of law by Division Bench of four judges of this court was binding on a Division Bench of three judges of the court. And in Mattulal v. Radhe Lal, [1975] 1 SCR 127, this court specifically observed that where the view expressed by two different Division Benches of this court could not be reconciled, the pronouncement of a Division Bench of a larger number of judges had to be preferred over the de .....

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4 SCC 369, which noted that a Division Bench of two judges of this court in Jit Ram Shiv Kumar v. State of Haryana [1984] 3 SCR 689, had differed from the view taken by an earlier Division Bench of two judges in Motilal Padampat Sugar Mills Co. Ltd. v. State of U. P. [1979] 118 ITR 326 ; [1979] 2 SCR 641, on the point whether the doctrine of promissory estoppel could be defeated by invoking the defence of executive necessity, and, holding that to do so was wholly unacceptable, reference was made .....

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wever, like to think that for the purpose of imparting certainty and endowing due authority, decisions of this court in future should be rendered by Division Benches of at least three judges unless, for compelling reasons, that is not conveniently possible. Upon the aforesaid considerations and in view of the nature and potential of the questions raised in these cases, we are of the view that there was sufficient justification for the order dated September 23, 1985, made by the Bench of two lear .....

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provided under section 23(2) of the Land Acquisition Act (shortly the parent Act ) at 15% of the market value of the land computed in accordance with section 23(1) of the Act, the solatium being provided in consideration of the compulsory nature of the acquisition. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 1982, was introduced in the House of the People on April 30, 1982, and upon enactment the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act 1984, commenced operation with effect from September 24, 1984. Section .....

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tion 23 . . ...of the principal Act, as amended by clause (b) of section 15 ... of this Act ... shall apply and shall be deemed to have applied, also to, and in relation to, any award made by the Collector or court or to any order passed by the High Court or Supreme Court in appeal against any such award under the provisions of the principal Act after the 30th day of April, 1982 [the date of introduction of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 1982, in the House of the People] and before the c .....

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ded by section 30(2) in respect of award made by the Collector between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984. Likewise, the benefit of the enhanced solatium is extended by section 30(2) to the case of an award made by the court between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984, even though it be upon reference from an award made before April 30, 1982. The question is : what is the meaning of the words or to any order passed by the High Court or Supreme Court on appeal against any such award ? Are .....

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. Parliament has identified the appeal before the High Court and the appeal before the Supreme Court by describing it as an appeal against any such award . The submission on behalf of the respondents is that the words any such award mean the award made by the Collector or court, and carry no greater limiting sense ; and that in this context, upon the language of section 30(2), the order in appeal is an appellate order made between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984, -in which case the relate .....

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st the award of the Collector or of the court. The words any such award are intended to have deeper significance, and in the context in which those words appear in section 30 (2), it is clear that they are intended to refer to awards made by the Collector or court between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984. In other words, section 30(2) of the Amendment Act extends the benefit of the enhanced solatium to cases where the award by the Collector or by the court is made between April 30, 1982, a .....

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Land Acquisition Officer [1985] 1 SCC 582, and find ourselves unable to agree with the view taken in Bhag Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh [1985] 3 SCC 737. The expanded meaning given to section 30(2) in the latter case does not, in our opinion, flow reasonably from the language of that subsection. It seems to us that the learned judges in that case missed the significance of the word such in the collocation of the words any such award in section 30(2). Due significance must be attached to .....

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would have said so in clear language. On the contrary, as he says, the terms in which section 30(2) is couched indicate a limited extension of the benefit. The Amendment Act has not been made generally retrospective with effect from any particular date and such retrospectivity as appears is restricted to certain areas covered by the parent Act and must be discovered from the specific terms of the provision concerned. Since it is necessary to spell out the degree of retrospectivity from the langu .....

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n the right to approach them for relief was granted by the statute. If it was intended that section 30(2) should refer to appeals pending before the High Court or the Supreme Court between April 30, 1982, and September 24, 1984, they could well refer to proceedings in which an award had been made by the Collector from anything between 10 to 20 years before. It could never have been intended that rates of compensation and solatium applicable to acquisition proceedings initiated so long ago should .....

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atium by section 23(2) is computed as a percentage on such market value. Our attention was drawn to the order made in State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh [1986] 1 SCC 365, but in the absence of a statement of the reasons which persuaded the learned judges to take the view they did, we find it difficult to endorse that decision. It received the approval of the learned judges who decided Bhag Singh s case [1985] 3 SCC 737, but the judgment in Bhag Singh s case [1985] 3 SCC 737, as we have said earli .....

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on the general principle that the appeal is a rehearing of the original matter, but we are not satisfied that he is on good ground in invoking that principle. Learned counsel for the respondents points out that the word or has been used in section 30(2) as a disjunctive between the reference to the award made by the Collector or the court and an order passed by the High Court or the Supreme Court in appeal and, he says, that, properly understood, it must mean that the period, April 30, 1982 to .....

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