A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and Ravindra Bhat clarified that acquisition will be deemed to have lapsed only when government authorities fail to take possession and pay compensation.
The bench held that the compensation need not be essentially deposited in the court and the proceedings would not lapse.
Concluding the pronouncing of the verdict, Justice Mishra said the spirit of the judgement was that the benefit should go to the land owners, agriculturists and not intermediaries.
The case pertains to the interpretation of Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act which came into force in 2013. As per the provisions, if a land is acquired and the compensation of the land is not paid within five years, the acquisition process would lapse.
This case came to limelight following two contradictory judgments over whether a land acquired by the government would lapse, if it fails to deposit the compensation within a span of five years in the bank account of the land owners.
While a three judge bench in 2014 case of Pune Municipal Corporation v. Harakchand Misirmal Solanki if the compensation is not deposited in the bank accounts of the land owners it means they have not received the payment. The judgment clarified even if the payment was kept in government treasury it would not mean that the payment has been made.
In a contradictory judgement, another three-judge bench in the February 2018 case of Indore Development Authority held that if the land owner himself refuses to accept compensation from the government, the land owner cannot claim that five years had lapsed and acquisition became invalid.
Following the controversy, the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on February 26, 2018 formed a Constitution Bench to decide if the 2018 bench could have invalidated the decision of the 2014 bench. The matter was not taken up during the remainder of his tenure and was also not taken up during the tenure of his successor Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
A five-judge constitution bench started hearing the case at length on 15 October.