Thirty seven years after the Centre scrapped a land allotment scheme for NRIs in the city, the Delhi High Court has directed the government to pay compensation to 26 Non-Resident Indians for "depriving them of land in the country of their birth".
Thirty seven years after the Centre scrapped a land allotment scheme for NRIs in the city, the Delhi High Court has directed the government to pay compensation to 26 Non-Resident Indians for “depriving them of land in the country of their birth”.
Justice Prathiba M Singh said that the Centre had breached the contract and the promises made to the NRIs and the “shield of public policy would not become available to the government for abrogating its role as a party to a contract”.
The court said a compensation of Rs 11.20 lakh by taking the market rate prevalent at the time of cancellation in 1981, is a reasonable basis to quantify damages and directed the government to pay the amount to the NRIs within eight weeks.
“The sentiment of NRIs to be tied to their country is the fulcrum of this dispute,” the court said in a recent order.
It said the applicants who had applied under the scheme with the fond hope of owning a plot of land in Delhi, in the country of their birth, have been deprived of the same and they are entitled to compensation for the loss that they have suffered.
The court said that by scrapping the scheme, the government has retained the entire land, which was located at a prime location on Badarpur-Mehrauli Road, in its possession and has put it to good use.
It said the applicants have not only litigated with the government “for the last almost 34 years” but they have also been deprived of owning a plot of 400 sq. yards in a city like Delhi.
The high court, which agreed with the conclusion of the trial court on award of damages, did not agree with some of the observations of the trial court regarding ‘acts of criminal negligence’.
The scheme was floated by the government in February 1978 for land in Delhi to NRIs to build a residential house and it was dropped in 1981 later simply citing ‘public interest’. It was launched by the Ministry of Works and Housing, Land and Development office.
The applicants had also paid earnest money of Rs 10,000 each for the plot.
On February 13, 1980, the government issued a letter informing the applicants that allotment would be made after June 1980 but in September 1981, the scheme was dropped.
Some of the applicants had challenged the cancellation in the high court in 1981 but it was dismissed and and the cancellation was upheld in 1999.
Out of 355 applicants, 26 filed a suit for damages before the trial court which was granted.
The government challenged the trial court order in the high court which has now been decided by Justice Singh.
The high court, in its order, said “the government while safeguarding the interest of the public has also to be a fair player in the contractual domain.
“A huge amount of faith is reposed by a person, who contracts with the government and the role of the government in the said contractual sphere is that of a promisor. The shield of public policy would not become available to the government for abrogating its role as a party to a contract.”