The Supreme Court has taken the Punjab government to task for failing to pay compensation to a housing society after acquiring its land.
The SC held that the acquisition of the land was invalid because the government kept the compensation money in its own treasury “for reasons that are not clear”.
Around Rs 35 lakh was determined as the compensation amount which was to be paid to the society 20 years ago.
The land is located in Mohali’s Sohana area and was owned by the Working Friends Cooperative House Building Society. It wanted to set up a housing colony with all modern facilities. But in 1995, the state government started acquisition process and acquired that land.
The case moved to the Punjab and Haryana High Court which rejected the society’s plea that their land should not be acquired by the government.
“The compensation of Rs 35,52,528 was neither paid to the appellant nor was it deposited in the reference court. It was admittedly deposited in the government treasury of the state.”
The society approached the Supreme Court saying that the government hadn’t paid it the compensation amount. Therefore, the acquisition proceedings should lapse in accordance with the provisions of Section 24(2) of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice R.K. Agrawal observed that the legal requirement is that the compensation “should have either been paid to the landowner or should have been deposited in the reference court.
The compensation of Rs 35,52,528 was, however, neither paid to the appellant nor was it deposited in the reference court. It was admittedly deposited in the government treasury of the state.”
It added that “unfortunately, even the deposit of the compensation amount in the reference court on 26 June 2014 does not come to the aid of the appellant under any circumstances and cannot be taken as “deemed payment”. The reason for this is that land prices have boomed in the last 20 years and the compensation amount is not sufficient to buy even a two bedroom flat in that locality today.
The court concluded that in view of these reasons, the “acquisition proceedings” will be treated as invalid.