New Delhi: Noting that the Land Acquisition Act has become outdated and failed to adequately compensate the displaced land owners, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to come out with a "fair, reasonable and rational enactment" to protect their Constitutional rights.

"The provisions contained in the Act, of late, have been felt by all concerned, do not adequately protect the interest of the land owners/persons interested in the land. The Act does not provide for rehabilitation of persons displaced from their land although by such compulsory acquisition, their livelihood gets affected.

"For years, the acquired land remains unused and unutilised. To say the least, the Act has become outdated and needs to be replaced at the earliest by fair, reasonable and rational enactment in tune with the constitutional provisions, particularly, Article 300A of the Constitution," the Apex Court said.

Under Article 300A no person can be deprived of his or her property except by due process of law.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and J S Khehar made the observation while upholding the acquisition of 1.45 acres land by the Tamil Nadu Government at Chidambaram town in Arcot district on behalf of Patel Cholan Roadways Corporation Limited for expansion of the existing bus depot.

"We expect the law making process for a comprehensive enactment with regard to acquisition of land being completed without any unnecessary delay," Justice Lodha writing the judgement said.

The aggrieved owners Ramji Veerji Patel and others challenged the acquisition claiming that despite availability of alternative sites, Government chose to acquire their lands depriving them of their livelihood as they were running their saw mills at the place for the past 25 years. The Madras High Court had earlier rejected their plea.

Dismissing the appeal, the Apex Court said the Government has given convincing reasons as to why the appellants’ land has been found to be more suitable for expansion of the depot as it was adjacent to the existing depot of the Corporation having easy access to the main road.

"In our view, the manner in which the decision has been taken by the Government regarding suitability of the appellants’ land for expansion of the depot of the Corporation is not vitiated by any error of law nor is it irrational or founded on extraneous reasons.”

"Having regard to the purpose for which the land is sought to be acquired, namely, expansion of existing depot, particularly, for a workshop, the appellants’ land is definitely more suitable.

"The litigation has traversed upto this Court and taken about 22 years. The public purpose has been stalled for more than two decades," the bench said.

The bench rejected the plea of the owners that the court exercise its special powers to render them justice as otherwise they would be thrown out of their livelihood.

The Apex Court said though it enjoys extraordinary power under Article 142 to pass any decree, order or direction in the matter to do complete justice between the parties, the same cannot be exercised in a casual manner.

"It is rather exercised sparingly and very rarely. In the name of justice to the appellants, under Article 142, nothing should be done that would result in frustrating the acquisition of land which has been completed long back by following the procedure under the Act and after giving full opportunity to the appellants under," the bench added.

(Agencies)