SC issues notice on plea challenging mandatory arbitration under National Highways Act, 1956
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea challenging mandatory arbitration proceedings for determination of compensation in land acquisition process under the National Highways Act.
A bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan issued notice to the Union government, Project Director of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), and others in the matter.
The plea said that Section 3G of the National Highways Act, 1956 by imposing mandatory arbitration proceedings on the land-loser with a pre-determined Arbitrator blatantly violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
The writ petition — filed through advocate Madhusmita Bora — also challenges the constitutional validity of Section 3J saying that the apex court has already declared it unconstitutional and violative of Article 14 in a catena of judgments.
Under the present National Highways Act, if the amount of compensation determined by the Competent Authority is not acceptable to either NHAI or the land owner, an application can be preferred under Section 3G(5) which empowers only an arbitrator to determine the amount of compensation. Also, the compensation dispute is kept out of jurisdiction of the courts, thus imposing, mandatory arbitration proceedings on the land-loser.
The plea stated that the said Arbitrator — who is appointed unilaterally by the Central government and is usually a government employee — is “biased” simply by having an interest in the outcome of the dispute since the land is acquired by the government for its use.
“As a result, the land-loser under the National Highways Act, 1956 is forced to undergo mandatory/statutory arbitration with a pre- determined arbitrator with no recourse to the Courts,” said the petition.
It is unreasonable to force the land-loser to undergo mandatory statutory arbitration wherein the appointment of arbitrator is non- consensual and tipped in favour of the Central government, the plea added.
The matter is likely to be heard by the apex court on January 29.