Competent Authority under Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 should be a person who is holding or has held a Judicial Office

Supreme Court: Interpreting the provisions of the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 (PMP Act), the Court said that the definition “Corporation” is wide enough to take within its sweep entities in private sector as well. Considering the nature of activity where entities in private sector are encouraged to participate, it would be incorrect to put any restricted meaning as regards the expression “Corporation”. This definition is designedly kept wide enough to include all such possibilities and there is no reason for giving any restricted meaning to such expression.

Regarding the contention that “Competent Authority” is given wide ranging powers under Section 5 of the PMP Act, the Court said that a person who occupies the position of Competent Authority under the PMP Act must evoke and enjoy public confidence. Neither the Act nor the Rules framed thereunder deal with the qualifications required of a person before his appointment as Competent Authority nor do they deal with any transparent process for such appointment. Stating that like the PMP Act, the Metro Railway (Construction of Works) Act, 1978 also confers power upon the Competent Authority therein to consider objections to the construction of the Metro Railway or any other work and to determine the amount payable for acquisition, the Court noticed that the Competent Authority under the provisions of the PMP Act must also be someone who is holding or has held a Judicial Office not lower in rank than that of a Subordinate Judge or is a trained legal mind as is the case under the Metro Act . If such requirement is not read into and not taken as an integral and essential qualification before appointment of any person as Competent Authority, the provisions in that behalf will not be consistent with the doctrine of fairness under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

The Bench of V. Gopala Gowda and U.U. Lalit, JJ, however, clarified that the actions taken by the Competent Authority till now, will not in any way stand impaired or be invalidated purely on this count. But the Central Government should step in immediately and remedy the situation with appropriate measures. [Laljibhai Kadvabhai Savaliya v. State of Gujarat, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1101, decided on 05.10.2016]

 

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