NIT gets back 20.61 acre Wathoda land

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Nov 2018 10:11:47


Staff Reporter,

Original land owner loses huge tract of land due to non-payment of a paltry sum in 1970’s to NIT

Chequered history of 44 acre Wathoda land

NIT acquired 44.61 acre land for drainage on Nov 27, 1953

Rs 23,500 compensation granted by award on Dec 12, 1962

NIT decides to return surplus land to owner on May 3, 1968

Owner seeks re-allotment of entire 44.61 acre on Sept 3, 1975

NIT Board approves decision to re-allot the land on Oct 6, 1975

Dispute over payment of premium, only 24 acre allotted on June 9, 1982

Civil Suit filed in 1989, court rules in favour of owner Tikhe

NIT moves District Court in 2007, decision reversed on August 26, 2014

Land owner moves High Court in second appeal; the Court rules against NIT in 2017

NIT files SLP, finally the Supreme Court orders in favour of NIT on October 31, 2018

After a 30-year long chequered legal battle which came to an end before the Supreme Court, the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) received a prime 20.61 acre land at Wathoda. The land was part of 44.61 acre plot acquired for drainage and sewerage scheme way back on November 27, 1953. Now, the NIT is planning to use this huge tract for affordable housing project.

Later this land turned out to be surplus and NIT decided to return it to original land owner Sheela Tikhe in 1968 on payment of premium. However, only 24 acre land was returned since land owner had failed to deposit the prescribed amount. This led to a bitter litigation between land owner and trust and travelled from civil court right upto Apex Court which ruled in favour of NIT and upheld legality of its action. The land, once barren fetching very little price, now has become a preferred destination of East Nagpur and commands premium.

The NIT had acquired entire stretch of 44.61 acre for its Drainage and Sewerage Scheme Part­II. The award was passed on December 31, 1962 and NIT took possession after disbursing compensation of Rs.23,500. Since, the land was not required, the NIT the exercising its powers under Land Disposal Rules, 1955, decided to dispose of entire land to Tikhe by charging the premium and ground rent. The NIT invited application for re-allotment of 44.61 acre land on lease and original land-owner filed an application on September 3, 1975. However, she objected to pay 1.5 times of the amount received under land acquisition and revise the amount. Besides, there was a stipulation to use entire land only for Agriculture purposes and entire amount was to be paid in 10 installments.

The stalemate continued for seven years and in 1982 Tikhe once again requested NIT to reduce the amount. The NIT instead allocated 24 acre out of 44.61 acre land to her. The revised premium for allotment of 24 acres was fixed as Rs.19,230/­ and first installment of 10% was requested to be paid immediately and to further accept terms and conditions of allotment. After some correspondence, Tikhe accepted the allotment letter informing about possession of 24 acre land and subsequently requested to release remaining 20.61 acre land to her. In 1989 the lease was executed for 24 acres of land in her favour after which she filed civil suit demanding entire 44.61 acre land without charging premium.

The trial court held that land-owner was entitled for allotment of remaining 20.61 acres of land and she was directed to deposit remaining premium amount of Rs 16,295 along with 10% per annum interest. NIT was directed to execute the lease deed of land admeasuring 20.61 acres in favour of Tikhe.

NIT then moved the district court challenging the decision of trial court. The District Judge on August 26, 2014 allowed the appeal, set aside the decree and dismissed the suit. This led to filing of second appeal before the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court.  The High Court in its judgement again upheld land owner’s entitlement for allotment of 20.61 acre of land as per NIT’s own 1968 resolution. The High Court also disapproved applicability of fresh Land Disposal Rules framed in 1983 to NIT’s 1975 resolution.

Now, it was NIT’s turn to challenge it before the Apex Court and claim ownership over 20.41 acre land. The NIT blamed the land-owner for non-compliance of board resolution and dragging the matter for such a long period. After 24 acre land was re-allotted, there was never any firm allotment of 44.61 acre in favour of Tikhe, NIT claimed. Remaining 20.61 acre land was earmarked for Central Nursery of Social Forestry and nursery of NIT.

A division bench of Supreme Court consisting of Justice A K Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan while allowing the special leave petition of NIT, held that trial court was not justified in deciding the suit in favour of land-owner in view of Land Disposal Rules. These rules restrain the NIT from allotting any land without auction or inviting tenders or public advertisement. The Apex Court also noted that High Court committed error in taking the view that Land Disposal Rules, 1983 were not applicable in the present case. Senior Advocates Shyam Diwan, Huzefa Ahmadi, S K Mishra, Adv Satyajit Desai and Adv Anagha Desai appeared for NIT. Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi, Adv Abhishek Bhoot, Adv Ravindra K and Adv Pratik R. Bombarde represented owner.