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Rehabilitation Award for Acquisitions Under NH Act to Be Passed by Competent Authority

The Allahabad High Court, in the case of Rampal Singh and 12 others v. National Highway Authority of India and 2 others [2024 AHC 72392-DB] held on April 24, 2024, that for acquisitions under the National Highways Act, 1956 the rehabilitation and resettlement award should be passed by the ‘Competent Authority’ and not the ‘Collector’ of the district.

In the instant case, the petitioners land was acquired under the National Highways Act, 1956 (NH Act) and an award was passed by the ‘competent authority’. The petitioners reached out to the High Court praying for a direction to the ‘collector’ to pass award under the provisions of Section 31 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RECTLARR Act) instead of the ‘competent authority’.

As per an earlier order delivered by the Allahabad High Court in a similar matter, it was held that the beneficial provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation Act, 2013, including those for rehabilitation and resettlement, would apply to acquisitions made under the NH Act. Under this order, it was also held that the Collector should pass the rehabilitation and resettlement award. This position of the court was the bone of contention in the present matter.

In simple terms, the issue for consideration before the court in the present case was whether for acquisitions made under the NH Act, the rehabilitation and resettlement award is to be passed by the ‘Collector’ or the ‘Competent Authority’.

The court observed that the notification dated August 28, 2015, issued by the Central Government extended the beneficial provisions of the RECTLARR Act to acquisitions made under the NH Act. However, since the machinery provided for holding an enquiry and determining compensation under the NH Act is not altered by the notification, the ‘Competent Authority’ would be empowered to examine the claims pertaining to rehabilitation and resettlement and make award accordingly and not the ‘Collector’ of the district.

The court further opined that a circular clarifying the legal position in such cases may be issued by the Central Government to obviate filing of separate petitions by affected persons for direction to pass such an award.