Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited vs M/S Nemichand Damodardas on 11 July, 2022


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Supreme Court of India

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited vs M/S Nemichand Damodardas on 11 July, 2022

Author: M.R. Shah

Bench: M.R. Shah, B.V. Nagarathna

                                                                        REPORTABLE


                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                    CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                    CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3478 OF 2022


          Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited                             …Appellant(s)

                                                 Versus

          M/s. Nemichand Damodardas & Anr.                         …Respondent(s)



                                             JUDGMENT

M.R. SHAH, J.

1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment

and order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay at Nagpur

Bench in First Appeal No.1302 of 2009 by which the High Court has

partly allowed the said appeal preferred by the original owners/original

claimants and has enhanced the amount of compensation for the lands

acquired mainly relying upon the prevailing Ready Reckoner rates of the

land, the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has preferred the

present appeal.

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
SWETA BALODI
Date: 2022.07.11

2.
17:21:45 IST
Reason: That the lands owned by the respondents herein – original

landowners situated at Yavatmal, Maharashtra were acquired by the

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State Government under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act for

BSNL. The Land Acquisition Officer declared the award determining the

total compensation @ Rs.14,33,703/- (at Rs.13.32 per sq. ft.). At the

instance of the landowners, a reference was made to the Reference

Court. The Reference Court enhanced the amount of compensation to

Rs.21/- per sq. ft.

2.1 In a further appeal to the High Court at the instance of the original

claimants, by the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has

enhanced the amount of compensation to Rs.174/- per sq. ft. (more than

800% of the Reference Court compensation and about 1300% of the

compensation awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer).

2.2 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment

and order passed by the High Court enhancing the amount of

compensation to Rs.174/- per sq. ft., BSNL has preferred the present

appeal.

3. Shri R.D. Agrawala, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf

of BSNL has vehemently submitted that the High Court has seriously

erred in enhancing the amount of compensation solely relying upon the

prevailing Ready Reckoner rates. It is submitted that the sole basis for

more than 800% increase by the High Court is the prevailing Ready

Reckoner rates of land, which as such is not permissible as held by this

Court in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham Vs. Revenue Divisional

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Officer, Adilabad, A.P. and Ors., (1994) 4 SCC 595 and Krishi

Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Sahaswan Vs. Bipin Kumar, (2004) 2 SCC

283.

3.1 Learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant –

BSNL has further submitted that in the facts and circumstances of the

case, no reliance could have been placed on the Ready Reckoner as

PW3 – a Government Officer specifically admitted that the actual rates of

transaction of sales in market are different from the rates mentioned in

the Ready Reckoner and that the correct market price is not reflected

from the Ready Reckoner. It is submitted that PW3 further specifically

admitted that the Ready Reckoner was prepared only for collecting

stamp duty. It is submitted that therefore, the High Court has seriously

erred in enhancing the amount of compensation solely relying upon the

Ready Reckoner prices of the area in question.

3.2 It is further submitted by the learned Senior Advocate appearing on

behalf of the appellant – BSNL that in the present case, the High Court

has relied upon and/or considered the Full Bench decision of the

Bombay High Court in the case of Shalini Vaman Godbole Vs. Special

Land Acquisition Officer, Special Unit, Solapur and Ors., (2009) 5

Mah LJ 884 rather than not following the decisions of this Hon’ble Court

in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham (supra) and Krishi Utpadan Mandi

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Samiti, Sahaswan (supra), which are binding on all Courts of the

country under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.

3.3 Making above submissions and relying upon the above decisions,

it is prayed to allow the present appeal.

4. Shri Sachin Patil, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State

has adopted the submissions made by the learned Senior Advocate

appearing on behalf of the appellant – BSNL and submitted that the High

Court has committed a serious error in awarding such an exorbitant

compensation.

5. Present appeal is vehemently opposed by Mrs. Kiran Suri, learned

Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of original claimants. Mrs. Suri,

learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the original claimants

has vehemently submitted that in the present case while enhancing the

compensation amount to Rs. 174/- per sq. ft., the High Court has rightly

relied upon the Government Resolution and the Ready Reckoner. It is

contended that the value of the land mentioned in the Ready Reckoner

is a statutory cost and even the Government has issued a Resolution

that while determining the amount of compensation, the price/value

mentioned in the Ready Reckoner is required to be taken into

consideration.

5.1 It is submitted that in the present case, the original claimants have

relied upon the Government Resolution dated 31.10.1994 as well as the

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Ready Reckoner rates by examining the Assistant Town Planner as

PW-4.

5.2 It is submitted that the Government Resolution dated 31.10.1994

makes it obligatory that on the date of the notification under Section 4 of

the Land Acquisition Act, wherever, necessary, the capitalization method

and/or the valuation as per the Ready Reckoner, whichever is higher,

should be done at the time of market selection. It is submitted that the

aforesaid Government Resolution provided the basis for the calculation

of the market value for Ready Reckoner. It is submitted that Ready

Reckoner is prepared after taking into consideration the geographical

conditions of each area, major roads, railways, etc., as well as by

inspecting the information of buying and selling transactions.

5.3 It is submitted that the Ready Reckoner is used for registering

documents. The sale transactions cannot be for a lesser amount than

the market price. It is submitted that however, the value of the land in

the documents may be higher than the value proposed by the Ready

Reckoner. It is submitted that a policy decision by the Government that

the value/price mentioned in the Ready Reckoner can be considered for

the purpose of determining the compensation for the lands acquired

under the Land Acquisition Act is beyond the judicial review, more

particularly, when the same is not under challenge.

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5.4 It is submitted that the prices mentioned in the Ready Reckoner

are after following the procedure as required under the Maharashtra

Stamp (Determination of True Market Value of property) Rules, 1995.

Relying upon the decision of this Court in the case of Lal Chand Vs.

Union of India and Anr., (2009) 15 SCC 769 (para 41), it is submitted

that as observed and held by this Court, the procedure adopted by the

Expert Committee constituted under the Stamp Act, law is a scientific

and methodical assessment of market value, and, therefore, there is no

reason why such rates should not be a relevant piece of evidence for

determination of the market value.

5.5 Making the above submissions and relying upon the decision of

the Bombay High Court in the case of Shalini Vaman Godbole (supra),

it is prayed to dismiss the present appeal.

6. Heard the learned counsel appearing for the respective parties at

length.

7. At the outset, it is required to be noted that by the impugned

judgment and order, the High Court relying upon the Ready Reckoner

land prices of the area has enhanced the amount of compensation by

800% from Rs.21/- per sq. ft. to Rs. 174/- per sq. ft. The High Court has

heavily relied upon the Government Resolution dated 31.10.1994 as well

as the Ready Reckoner prices and the decision of the High Court in the

case of Shalini Vaman Godbole (supra). However, when decision of

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this Court in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham (supra) and Krishi

Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Sahaswan (supra), which were binding, on

whether while determining the compensation for the lands acquired

under the Land Acquisition Act, the Ready Reckoner prices, which are

for determination of the stamp duty can be considered or not, the High

Court has not followed the aforesaid decisions of this Court, which were

binding on the High Court under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.

Therefore, High Court has seriously erred in not following the two

decisions of this Court in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham (supra) and

Krishi Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Sahaswan (supra).

8. Whether the prices mentioned in the Ready Reckoner can be the

basis for determining the compensation for the lands acquired under the

Land Acquisition Act has been dealt with by this Court in the two

decisions of this Court in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham (supra) and

Krishi Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Sahaswan (supra). In the case of

Jawajee Nagnatham (supra), this Court has observed and held that the

amount of compensation for the lands under the Land Acquisition Act is

determined by adopting the method of valuation namely, (1) opinion of

experts; (2) the price paid within a reasonable time in bona fide

transactions of purchase of the lands acquired or the lands adjacent to

the lands acquired and possessing similar advantages; and (3) a number

of years purchase of the actual or immediately prospective profits of the

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lands acquired. It is observed that in determining the market value, the

Court has to take into account either one or the other of the three

methods to determine market value of the lands appropriate to the facts

of a given case to determine the market value. Thereafter, this Court

considered whether the Basic Valuation Register would form the

foundation to determine the market value. While negating the same and

accepting the view taken by the High Court that the entries under the

Basic Valuation Register cannot form the basis to enhance the market

value, it is observed and held in paragraph 5 as under:-

“5. The question, therefore, is whether the Basic Valuation
Register is evidence to determine the market value. This
Court in Special Land Acquisition Officer v. T. Adhinarayan
Setty
[AIR 1959 SC 429] in paragraph 9 held that the
function of the Court in awarding compensation under the
Act is to ascertain the market value of the land at the date of
the notification under Section 4(1). The methods of valuation
may be (1) opinion of experts (2) the price paid within a
reasonable time in bona fide transactions of purchase of the
lands acquired or the lands adjacent to the lands acquired
and possessing similar advantages; and (3) a number of
years purchase of the actual or immediately prospective
profits of the lands acquired. Same was the view in Tribeni
Devi v. Collector of Ranchi
[(1972) 1 SCC 480]. It was
reiterated in catena of decisions, vide, Periyar and
Pareekanni Rubbers Ltd. v. State of Kerala
[(1991) 4 SCC
195]. Therefore, it is settled law that in determining the
market value, the Court has to take into account either one
or the other three methods to determine market value of the
lands appropriate on the facts of a given case to determine
the market value. Generally the second method of valuation
is accepted as the best. The question, therefore, is whether
the Basic Valuation Register would form foundation to
determine the market value. The Indian Stamp Act, 1899
provides the power to prescribe stamp duty on instruments,

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etc. Entry 44 of List III, Concurrent List, of the VIIth Schedule
read with Article 254 of the Constitution empowers the State
Legislature to amend the Indian Stamp Act, 1899. In
exercise thereof all the State Legislatures including the
Legislature of A.P. amended the Act and enacted Section 47-

A empowering the registering officer to levy stamp duty on
instruments of conveyance, etc., if the registering officer has
reason to believe that the market value of the property,
covered by the conveyance, exchange, gift, release of right
or settlement, has not been truly set forth in the instrument,
he may refuse registering such instrument and refer the
same to the Collector for determination of the market value
of such property and the proper duty payable thereon. On
receipt of such opinion, he may call upon the vendor as per
the rules prescribed, to pay the additional duty thereon. If the
vendor is dissatisfied, he has been given the right to file an
appeal and further getting reference made to the High Court
for decision in that behalf. Section 47-A would thus clearly
show that the exercise of the power thereunder is with
reference to a particular land covered by the instrument
brought for registration. When he has reasons to believe it to
be undervalued, he should get verified whether the market
value was truly reflected in the instrument for the purpose of
stamp duty; the Collector on reference could determine the
same on the basis of the prevailing market value. Section
47-A
conferred no express power to the Government to
determine the market value of the lands prevailing in a
particular area, village, block, district or the region and to
maintain Basic Valuation Register for levy of stamp duty for
registration of an instrument, etc. No other statutory
provision or rule having statutory force has been brought to
our notice in support thereof. Whether an instrument is liable
for higher stamp duty on the basis of valuation maintained in
the Basic Valuation Register, came up for consideration
in Sagar Cements Ltd. v. State of A.P. [(1989) 3 Andh LT
677] B.P. Jeevan Reddy, J., as he then was, considered the
question and held that the Government has unilaterally fixed
the valuation of the lands, the Basic Valuation Register had
no statutory foundation and therefore it does not bind the
parties. Neither the Registrar nor the vendor is bound by it.
The market value of the land for proper stamp duty has to be
determined as per the law under Section 47-A itself. That
view was followed by another learned Single Judge in P.

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Sasidar v. Sub-Registrar
[(1992) 1 Andh LT 49]. It is,
therefore, clear that the Basic Valuation Register prepared
and maintained for the purpose of collecting stamp duty has
no statutory base or force. It cannot form a foundation to
determine the market value mentioned thereunder in
instrument brought for registration. Equally it would not be a
basis to determine the market value under Section 23 of the
Act, of the lands acquired in that area or town or the locality
or the taluk etc. Evidence of bona fide sales between willing
prudent vendor and prudent vendee of the lands acquired or
situated near about that land possessing same or similar
advantageous features would furnish basis to determine
market value. The Division Bench followed, in support of its
view a decision of another Division Bench in Land
Acquisition Officer v. Venkateswara Prasad [A.S. No. 880 of
1980, decided on 11-11-1981] which also decided that Basic
Valuation Register cannot be relied on to determine the
market value. It would appear that in Govt. of A.P. v. Sohan
Lal
[(1988) 2 Andh LT 306] a Division Bench of that High
Court, without noticing these two binding decisions, held that
the Basic Valuation Register would form foundation to
determine the market value and directed to determine the
compensation on that basis. The entire controversy was
considered by yet another Division Bench in Vasireddi
Bharata Rao v. Revenue Divisional Officer
[(1992) 1 Andh LT
591]. The Division Bench, after considering the case law
disagreeing with Sohan Lal [(1988) 2 Andh LT 306] view as
per incuriam, also reiterated that the Basic Valuation
Register maintained by the registering authority has no
statutory foundation to determine the market value and
cannot form the base under Section 23(1) to determine the
market value. This Court in Gulzara Singh v. State of
Punjab
[(1993) 4 SCC 245] held that mutation entries of the
land transactions in the revenue records are not evidence
unless the parties to the transactions have been examined in
proof of documents. In Director of Survey-cum-LAO v. Mohd.
Ghouse [(1985) 1 MLJ 116] relied on by Mr Ganguli, the
Division Bench of Madras High Court, relying upon the
instructions issued by the Government to determine the
market value for the purpose of registration of the instrument
under Section 47-A, held that it would form basis to
determine the market value under Section 23 in an
appropriate case, subject to proof of the market value. What

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were the instructions issued by the Government and whether
they had any statutory foundation, have not been stated by
the Division Bench. If the broad proposition of law that under
Section 47-A of Stamp Act such instructions could be issued,
as contended for the appellant herein, as appears to be the
view of the High Court, it is not correct law. As we have
already noted, Section 47-A being local amendment, made
by each State Legislature did not find any such statutory
basis. Like A.P. Act, Tamil Nadu Act is also referable to
transactions intra vivos and not as general guidelines. If they
are based on evidence inter partes it would be consistent
with Section 47-A. Accordingly we hold that the basic value
of registration has no statutory base. It cannot form any
basis to determine the market value of the acquired lands
under Section 23 of the Act. The burden of proof is always
on the claimant to prove, in each case the prevailing market
value as on the date of notification published in the State
Gazette under Section 4(1) of the Act with reference to the
sale deeds of the same lands or neighbour’s lands
possessed of same or similar advantages and features
executed between willing vendor and willing vendee or other
relevant evidence in the reference court. The State did not
file any appeal against the award of the reference court
which itself is a matter gone in favour of the appellant. We do
not find any justification to further enhance the market
value.”

9. The aforesaid decision in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham

(supra) has been subsequently followed in a subsequent decision of this

Court in the case of Lal Chand (supra) and it is observed that the

market value of the land under Section 23 of the Land Acquisition Act

cannot be fixed on the basis of the rates mentioned in the Basic

Valuation Registers’ maintained for the purpose of collection of proper

stamp duty. In that case, as the Reference Court determined the

amount of compensation on the value of the land fixed by the District

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Magistrate for stamp duty purposes, this court has observed and held

that the same was erroneous.

As such, we are in complete agreement with the view taken in the

aforesaid two decisions that the prices mentioned in the Ready

Reckoner for the purpose of calculation of the stamp duty, which are

fixed for the entire area, cannot be the basis for determination of the

compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. It is required to be noted

that in the present case, the Reference Court did consider the

submission on behalf of the claimants to determine the market value on

the basis of the Ready Reckoner. The Reference Court specifically

refused to accept the same on appreciation of the deposition of PW-3.

PW-3, a Government Officer specifically admitted that the Ready

Reckoner was prepared for recovery of the proper stamp duty and the

registration charges and that the actual rates of transaction of sales in

market are different than the rates mentioned in the Ready Reckoner

and that correct market prices cannot be reflected from the Ready

Reckoner. Even PW-4 also specifically admitted in his deposition that

the Ready Reckoner is prepared only for collecting stamp duty. The

Refence court, therefore, rightly relied upon and followed the decisions

of this Court in the case of Jawajee Nagnatham (supra) and Krishi

Utpadan Mandi Samiti, Sahaswan (supra).

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10. Why the prices mentioned in the Ready Reckoner, which is

basically for the purpose of collecting proper stamp duty and registration

charges shall not be the basis for determination of the compensation for

the lands acquired under the Land Acquisition Act is required to be

considered from another angle also. It cannot be disputed that the rates

mentioned in the Ready Reckoner are for the lands of the entire area

and the uniform rates are determined with respect to different lands. In

the case of Chimanlal Hargovinddas Vs. Special Land Acquisition

Officer, Poona and Anr., (1988) 3 SCC 751, this Court has laid down

the broad principles to be followed in the case of determination of

compensation, which are as under:-

“4. The following factors must be etched on the mental
screen:

(1) A reference under Section 18 of the Land
Acquisition Act is not an appeal against the award and the
court cannot take into account the material relied upon by
the Land Acquisition Officer in his award unless the same
material is produced and proved before the court.

(2) So also the award of the Land Acquisition Officer is
not to be treated as a judgment of the trial court open or
exposed to challenge before the court hearing the reference.
It is merely an offer made by the Land Acquisition Officer and
the material utilised by him for making his valuation cannot
be utilised by the court unless produced and proved before
it. It is not the function of the court to sit in appeal against the
award, approve or disapprove its reasoning, or correct its
error or affirm, modify or reverse the conclusion reached by
the Land Acquisition Officer, as if it were an appellate court.

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(3) The court has to treat the reference as an original
proceeding before it and determine the market value afresh
on the basis of the material produced before it.

(4) The claimant is in the position of a plaintiff who has
to show that the price offered for his land in the award is
inadequate on the basis of the materials produced in the
court. Of course the materials placed and proved by the
other side can also be taken into account for this purpose.

(5) The market value of land under acquisition has to
be determined as on the crucial date of publication of the
notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act
(dates of notifications under Sections 6 and 9 are irrelevant).

(6) The determination has to be made standing on the
date line of valuation (date of publication of notification under
Section 4) as if the valuer is a hypothetical purchaser willing
to purchase land from the open market and is prepared to
pay a reasonable price as on that day. It has also to be
assumed that the vendor is willing to sell the land at a
reasonable price.

(7) In doing so by the instances method, the court has
to correlate the market value reflected in the most
comparable instance, which provides the index of market
value.

(8) Only genuine instances have to be taken into
account. (Sometimes instances are rigged up in anticipation
of acquisition of land.)

(9) Even post-notification instances can be taken into
account (1) if they are very proximate, (2) genuine, and (3)
the acquisition itself has not motivated the purchaser to pay
a higher price on account of the resultant improvement in
development prospects.

(10) The most comparable instances out of the
genuine instances have to be identified on the following
considerations:

(i) proximity from time angle,

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(ii) proximity from situation angle.

(11) Having identified the instances which provide the
index of market value, the price reflected therein may be
taken as the norm and the market value of the land under
acquisition may be deduced by making suitable adjustments
for the plus and minus factors vis-à-vis land under
acquisition by placing the two in juxtaposition.

(12) A balance sheet of plus and minus factors may be
drawn for this purpose and the relevant factors may be
evaluated in terms of price variation as a prudent purchaser
would do.

(13) The market value of the land under acquisition
has thereafter to be deduced by loading the price reflected in
the instance taken as norm for plus factors and unloading it
for minus factors.

(14) The exercise indicated in clauses (11) to (13) has
to be undertaken in a common sense manner, as a prudent
man of the world of business would do. We may illustrate
some such illustrative (not exhaustive) factors:

        Plus factors                      Minus factors
 1. smallness of size          1.   largeness of area
 2. proximity to a road        2.   situation in the interior at
                                    a distance from the road
 3. frontage on a road         3.   narrow strip of land with
                                    very      small    frontage
                                    compared to depth
 4. nearness to developed 4.        lower level requiring the
    area                            depressed portion to be
                                    filled up
 5. regular shape              5.   remoteness             from
                                    developed locality
 6. level vis-à-vis land 6.         some                 special
    under acquisition               disadvantageous factor
                                    which would deter a
                                    purchaser
 7. special value for an
    owner of an adjoining

                              15
           property to whom it
           may have some very
           special advantage

                          XXXXXXXXXX”


11. Thus, there may be various factors, which are required to be

considered for determining the market value of the land. The market

value of the land depends upon the location of the land; area of the land;

whether the land is in a developed area or not; whether the acquisition is

of a small plot of land or a big chunk of land and number of other

advantageous and disadvantageous factors are required to be

considered. Therefore, there cannot be the same market value for the

different lands while determining the compensation for the lands

acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. Therefore, the rates mentioned

in the Ready Reckoner, which are basically for the purpose of collection

of stamp duty and as observed hereinabove, which are the uniform rates

for all the lands in the area, cannot be the basis for determination of the

compensation for the lands acquired under the Land Acquisition Act.

Therefore, the High Court has committed a serious error in enhancing

the amount of compensation by 800% from Rs. 21/- per sq. ft. to Rs.

174/- per sq. ft. relying upon and/or considering the rates mentioned in

the Ready Reckoner.

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12. Now, so far as the reliance placed upon the Government

Resolution dated 31.10.1994 by the claimants as well as the High Court

is concerned, apart from the fact that the same is contrary to the law laid

down by this Court in the aforesaid two decisions, what is mentioned in

the said Government Resolution is that the Ready Reckoner is

scientifically prepared by taking into account the geographical conditions

of each area, major roads, railways, etc., as well as by inspecting the

information of buying and selling transactions and that the Ready

Reckoner rates are based on the talukas in rural areas and the urban

areas in different parts of the city.

As observed hereinabove, there cannot be a uniform market value

of the land for the purpose of determination of the compensation for the

lands acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. As observed herein

above, the market value of the different lands vary from place to place

and it depends upon various factors as observed hereinabove.

13. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, present

appeal succeeds. The impugned judgment and order passed by the

High Court is hereby quashed and set aside and the judgment and order

passed by the Reference Court determining the compensation @

Rs.21/- per sq. ft. is hereby restored.

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Present Appeal is Allowed accordingly. However, in the facts and

circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.

………………………………….J.

                                           [M.R. SHAH]



NEW DELHI;                              ………………………………….J.
JULY 11, 2022.                            [B.V. NAGARATHNA]




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