Compensation the key –

One of the provisions, which seeks to give meaning to this larger aim, is Section 24 of the LARR Act. This clause, among other things, concerns acquisitions made under the 1894 law, where compensation payable to a landowner from whom land had been taken prior to the year 2009 has already been determined. In such cases, the new law stipulates, the state ought to have not only taken possession of the land but also paid the amounts determined as due, failing which the entire proceedings will lapse. This means that even where the state has put the land acquired to some use, its failure to pay the holder compensation would render the entire proceeding nugatory.

Plainly read, Section 24 might seem rather innocuous. But, in January 2014, soon after the law came into force, the state sought to fashion a conservative interpretation of the clause, only for a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court to quickly nipsuch attempts in the bud. Pune Municipal Corporation v. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki was a case where awards had been made by the government prior to 2009. The state argued that each of the landowners from whom land was acquired had specifically been told about the quantum of money that they were entitled to receive. Since they neither disputed the amount fixed nor came forward to receive the money, the government claimed it deposited cash payable by it into its own treasury. According to it, this action was sufficient to negate the operation of Section 24. Or, put more simply, the landowners, the government said, were not entitled to retake their lands by claiming that they hadn’t received their compensation. The Supreme Court, however, thought otherwise.

Ordinarily, the court held, the state is always obligated to pay the landowner money in terms of any award made. It was only in exceptional circumstances, defined in Section 31 of the 1894 statute, that the government could deposit those amounts into a court of law. These included cases where a landowner might have refused to receive compensation, for some reason or the other. But even there, a mere payment into the government’s own treasury wouldn’t suffice. The law mandated deposit into court. Therefore, the proceedings in all these cases under the 1894 law, the bench ruled, had to be annulled, with lands being returned to their original owners.

High Courts across India almost uniformly adopted this verdict, reversing acquisitions in a host of cases. Indeed, in September 2016, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Delhi Development Authority v. Sukhbir Singh recognised the trend. The decision in Pune Municipal Corporation, it wrote, was “now stare decisis in that it has been followed in a large number of judgments.”

A different reading –

Yet, despite the law having been settled so thoroughly, with benefits from its interpretation extending to a number of landowners, including, in particular, poor farmers, on February 8, a divided three-judge bench departed from the decision in Pune Municipality. In Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra, Justices Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel, who comprised the majority — Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar partly dissented — found that in cases where a landowner refuses compensation, a payment into the government’s treasury was sufficient, and that there was no attendant obligation on the state to deposit this money into court. This reading clearly fits neither with the language of the LARR Act nor the law’s larger objectives. But this is one part of the problem. What makes the ruling patently unconscionable, though, is that it roundly disregards Pune Municipal Corporation, holding that the bench there showed a lack of due regard for the law.

Stare decisis, a principle foundational to the judiciary’s effective functioning, is predicated on a belief that settled points of law ought not to be disturbed. The idea is that a court’s rulings should represent a consistent position. If judges are allowed to easily depart from precedent, citizens might find themselves in an impossible position, where the statement of law remains prone to the constant vagaries of human interpretation.

In India, since the Supreme Court declares the law for the whole country, ensuring uniformity in its decisions is especially critical. But achieving this has proved challenging, because the court doesn’t sit as one, functioning instead as a series of differently sized panels. Therefore, to ensure that its decisions remain predominantly consistent, the court has carved out rules that make its judgments binding on all benches of the court of an equal or lesser strength. This convention was even expressly acknowledged by a Constitution Bench in Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community v. State of Maharashtra (2004). There, the court held that a three-judge bench cannot overrule a precedent set by an earlier bench of equal strength, but must, in cases where it thinks the previous bench might have blundered, refer the dispute to the Chief Justice, seeking the creation of a larger panel. Maintaining such a rule not only ensures stability in the court’s rulings but also provides the court with the necessary flexibility to correct its errors in appropriate cases.

Ultimately, therefore, the decision in Indore Development stems from an act of impropriety. To altogether overhaul problems such as these altogether might require a complete reimagining of the court’s role. Only a larger purging of its jurisdiction, by relieving it of mundane disputes that clog its docket, will allow it to function cohesively. For now, though, to restore even a semblance of institutional integrity, the Constitution Bench must show us that the court still respects rules of precedent, that it recognises its obligation to speak in unison, and that, most significantly, it sees itself as an institution governed by a common and majestic purpose.



Meaning: Demand or specify (a requirement), typically as part of an agreement.

Example: “He stipulated certain conditions before their marriage”

Synonyms: Specify, Set down


Meaning: A brief or temporary failure of concentration, memory, or judgement.

Example:”A lapse of concentration in the second set cost her the match”

Synonyms: Failure, Failing


Meaning: Of no value or importance.

Example:”A nugatory and pointless observation”

Synonyms: Worthless, Of no value


Meaning: Not harmful or offensive.

Example:”It was an innocuous question”

Synonyms: Harmless, Safe

Antonyms: Harmful, Obnoxious


Meaning: (Of the cold or frost) damage or hurt.

Example: “The vegetable garden, nipped now by frost”


Meaning: A friendly form of address from one boy or man to another.

Example: “I’ll tell you what, bud”


Meaning: A required or allowed amount, especially an amount of money legally payable in damages.

Example:”The court must determine the quantum of compensation due”


Meaning: Require or compel (someone) to undertake a legal or moral duty.

Example: “The medical establishment is obligated to take action in the best interest of the public”

29) Annulled

Meaning: Declare invalid (an official agreement, decision, or result).

Example: “The elections were annulled by the general amid renewed protests”

Synonyms: Declare invalid, Declare null and void

Antonyms: Restore, Enact


Meaning: A decision on an issue of fact in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.

Example:”The jury returned a verdict of not guilty”

Synonyms: Judgement, Adjudication


Meaning: Hold or express opinions that are at variance with those commonly or officially held.

Example:”Two members dissented from the majority”


Meaning: Likely or liable to suffer from, do, or experience something unpleasant or regrettable.

Example:”Farmed fish are prone to disease”

Synonyms: Susceptible, Vulnerable

Antonyms: Resistant, Immune


Meaning: An unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone’s behaviour.

Example: “The vagaries of the weather”

Synonyms: Quirk, Idiosyncrasy

Carved out

Meaning: To create or obtain something that helps you by skillful activities.

Example: ”She carved out a reputation for herself as a high-powered lawyer”


Meaning: Take apart (a piece of machinery or equipment) in order to examine it and repair it if necessary.

Example: “The steering box was recently overhauled”

Synonyms: Service, Maintain


Meaning: Remove (a group of people considered undesirable) from an organization or place in an abrupt or violent way.

Example:”He purged all but 26 of the central committee members”

Synonyms: Remove, Get rid of


Meaning: Lacking interest or excitement; dull.

Example: “His mundane, humdrum existence”

Synonyms: Humdrum, Dull

Antonyms: Extraordinary, Imaginative


Meaning: Fill up or crowd (something) so as to obstruct passage.

Example: “Tourists’ cars clog the roads into Cornwall”


Meaning: A document or label listing the contents of a consignment or package.

Synonyms: Document, Chit


Meaning: The outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different.

Example: “She tried to force her thoughts back into some semblance of order”

Synonyms: Appearance, Outward appearance