Of land acquisition and wrongful terminations

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | Updated: Apr 17 2013, 05:48am hrs
Land purchases cannot be unconstitutional

Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment, the Supreme Court has quashed the acquisition of land belonging to a stud farm firm by the Haryana government for the development of few sectors in Gurgaon. It said that the decision taken at the level of the chief minister (CM) was not in consonance with the scheme of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 and the state governments refusal to release Usha Stud and Agricultural Farms Ltds land resulted in the violation of its right to equality granted under Article 14 of the Constitution. Moreover, the CMs decision was also discriminatory as other similarly placed firms, which owned land in the same village, had been returned the acquired land. However, the top court clarified that the judgment shall not preclude the Haryana government from taking a fresh decision after objectively considering the objections raised by the firm. And if the final decision of the state government is adverse, the stud farm is free to challenge the same before an appropriate judicial forum. In this case, M/s Usha Stud and Agricultural Farms Pvt Ltd and others vs State of Haryana and others, the state government had acquired the land of three villages, namely, Mullahera, Dundahera and Daulatpur Nasirabad (Carterpur) for the development of few sectors of Gurgaon. Usha Stud and Agricultural Farms land measuring 52.74 acre was also included in the notification. While the firm challenged the acquisition of its land in the HC, the state government released substantial portion of land belonging to other firms whose lands were re-acquired in 1990.

The importance of having adequate reasons to dismiss a case

Reviving a 25-year-old case involving Tata Engineering & Locomotive Company Ltd, the Supreme Court has directed fresh retrial of the matter related to the purchase of five diesel vehicles from the company. The retrial was directed on the grounds that the Bombay High Court applied wrong legal principles and, therefore, the purchaser, Shantilal Gulabchand Mutha, should be allowed to present his case. In this case, Mutha had purchased five Tata Diesel Vehicles from Tata Engineering & Locomotive Co for around R9.59 lakh. While he stated that he had given eight bills of exchange through Mercantile Bank and paid the entire amount, the firm filed a suit for recovery of R5.66 lakh with interest in 1988. While Muthu entered appearance through his advocate to contest the suit, he did not file the written statement under the impression that the entire amount had already been paid. For that reason, ex parte decree was passed against him. He moved the high court, which in 2005 rejected its stand on the grounds that he had failed to file his statement. On appeal, the apex court said that the buyer was not given a hearing and his application was rejected by the HC without giving adequate reasons.

Compensation for wrongful termination must be fair The Supreme Court in the case of Rajkumar vs Jalgaon Municipal Corporation has raised the compensation for daily wage workers, but ruled out their reinstatement or backwages. In this case, the workers were employed with the corporation on daily wages or on temporary basis. After their services were terminated, they moved the labour court, which held termination as illegal and directed their reinstatement. Aggrieved by the order, the corporation moved the Bombay High Court, which directed the corporation to pay R10,000 each as compensation to the workers. However, the HC held that no remedy of reinstatement was available to the workers since they were not the workers appointed on regular vacant posts by due process of selection. Against that, the employees approached the Supreme Court, which upheld the HC ruling, but raised the compensation to R50,000 each. But one of the workers who had approached the conciliation officer within 2- 3 years got R1 lakh as compensation.