Appellants: National Highways Authority of India
Respondent: Sayedabad Tea Company Ltd. and Ors.
Facts: In the instant case, the Respondent-applicant being dissatisfied with the award of compensation determined by the competent authority under Sub-section (1) of Section 3G of the Act, 1956 filed application for appointment of an Arbitrator in terms of Section 3G(5) to the Central Government on 8th December, 2006. As alleged, since the Central Government has not responded to his request for appointment of an Arbitrator in terms of letter dated 8th December, 2006 within a period of 30 days from receipt of the request, application was filed on 7th March, 2007 to the Chief Justice/his designate for appointment of an Arbitrator invoking Section 11(6) of the Act, 1996. It reveals that the Arbitrator was appointed by the Central Government sometime in April 2007. The High Court of Calcutta taking note of the fact that the Arbitrator has been appointed by the Central Government under Section 3G(5) of the Act, 1956 after the Respondent-applicant had moved an application to the Chief Justice/his Designate invoking its power under Section 11(6) of the Act, 1996 held that right of appointment of the Arbitrator by the Central Government stands forfeited as it failed to appoint the Arbitrator until filing of the application Under Section 11(6) of the Act, 1996 before the High Court of Calcutta and appointment of Arbitrator during the pendency of proceedings, cannot be said to be a valid appointment and hence referred the matter to be placed before the Chief Justice for naming an Arbitrator vide its Order. Immediately after passing of the order dated 6th July, 2007, the Appellant moved an application for review and it was brought to the notice of the High Court that the Act, 1956 being a special enactment laying down a procedure for appointment of an Arbitrator where the power is being exclusively vested with the Central Government under Section 3G(5) of the Act, 1956, the application made under Section 11(6) of the Act, 1996 is not maintainable but this was not considered to be a valid reason for invoking review jurisdiction by the High Court as envisaged under Order 47 Rule 1 read with Section 114 of Code of Civil Procedure and the review application was dismissed vide Order.
Held: Present Court is in full agreement with the legal position stated by a two Judge Bench of this Court in General Manager (Project), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. case but like to add further that the Act, 1956 has been enacted under Entry 23 of the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution with the exclusive power to legislate with respect to highways, which are declared to be national highways by or under law by the Parliament. It is a comprehensive code and a special enactment which provides an inbuilt mechanism not only in initiating acquisition until culmination of the proceedings in determining the compensation and its adjudication by the Arbitrator to be appointed by the Central Government and if still remain dissatisfied, by the Court of law.
In compliance of the mandate of Sections 3A to 3F of the Act, 1956, after the land is acquired, there shall be paid an amount of compensation which shall be determined by an order of the competent authority under Sub-sections (1) or (2) of Section 3G of the Act, 1956 and any person who is aggrieved by the amount so determined by the competent authority or what being determined is not acceptable to either of the parties, on an application being filed by either of the parties, has to be determined by the Arbitrator to be appointed by the Central Government in terms of Sub-section (5) of Section 3G of the Act, 1956.
The plea of the Respondents that they have rightly taken recourse in the facts and circumstances of Section 11 of the Act, 1996 cannot be accepted for the reason that Section 3G(6) of the Act, 1956 clearly stipulates that the provisions of the Act, 1996 will apply subject to the provisions of the Act, 1956. The usage of the expression "subject to" clearly indicates that the legislature intended to give overriding effect to the provisions of the Act, 1956 where it relates to the disputes pertaining to determination of the amount of compensation under the Act. The irresistible conclusion is that the legislature in its wisdom intended to abrogate the power for appointment of an Arbitrator under the provisions of the Act, 1996.
The High Court of Calcutta was not holding its competence to appoint an Arbitrator invoking Section 11 of Act, 1996.
In view of the power being vested exclusively with the Central Government to appoint an Arbitrator Under Section 3G(5) of the Act 1956, being a special enactment, the application filed under Section 11(6) of the Act 1996 for appointment of an Arbitrator was not maintainable and provisions of the Act, 1996 could not be invoked for the purpose.
There is no statutory limitation provided under Sub-section (5) of Section 3G of Act 1956 for the Central Government to appoint an Arbitrator but that may not give an unguided discretion to the authority and in the absence of any statutory limitation, it must be within the reasonable time and if the Central Government fails in discharge of its statutory duty in appointing an Arbitrator on a request being made by either of the party aggrieved, it will be open to the party to invoke either the writ jurisdiction of the High Court Under Article 226 of the Constitution of India or the Civil Court for the purpose. But as long as the power is exclusively vested with the Central Government for appointment of an Arbitrator under Section 3G(5) of the Act 1956, the provision of Section 11 of Act 1996 has no application.
It is indeed true that the Arbitrator who was appointed by the Central Government subsequent to the filing of an application under Section 11 of the Act 1996 in April, 2007 could not proceed after the Arbitrator was appointed pursuant to the Order impugned in the instant proceedings, who too has later recused and almost 12 years have rolled by now, we deem it appropriate to observe that there is no need to file any application by the Respondent-applicant and the Central Government shall consider and appoint an Arbitrator in terms of Section 3G(5) of the Act 1956 within a period of 30 days with prior intimation to the Respondents. As the litigation has consumed a sufficient long time, it is considered appropriate to further observe that the Arbitrator so appointed by the Central Government may adjudicate and decide the dispute within a reasonable time but in no case later than six months after the Respondent-applicant record its presence in the proceedings.
The appeals accordingly succeed and are allowed. The orders passed by the High Court are hereby set aside.