‘Avoid shortcut approach’: SC says duty of courts to adjudicate on all issues

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it is the duty of courts to decide on all the issues and avoid adopting a shortcut approach and pronouncing the judgment on only one issue.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna said: “The courts should adjudicate on all the issues and give its findings on all the issues and not pronounce the judgment only on one of the issues.

“As such, it is the duty cast upon the courts to adjudicate on all the issues and pronounce the judgment on all the issues rather than adopting a shortcut approach and pronouncing the judgment on only one issue.”

The bench noted that by such a practice, it would increase the burden on the appellate court and in many cases, if the decision on the issue decided is found to be erroneous and on other issues, there is no adjudication and no findings recorded by the court, the appellate court will have no option but to remand the matter for its fresh decision.

It said the courts have to adjudicate on all the issues raised in a case and render findings and the judgment on all the issues involved.

The bench made these observations in a judgment on a clutch of appeals filed by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), Bengaluru against single and division bench decisions of the Karnataka High Court, in a land acquisition matter.

Relying upon the Constitution bench judgement in the Indore Development Authority case, the bench termed the high court decision unsustainable and set it aside. The high court held that the acquisition of 172 acres 22 guntas of land, owned by Jamanlal Bajaj Seva Trust, by the APMC had lapsed under the 2013 law on land acquisition (Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013).

Noting that the single bench of the high court had shortlisted various issues for adjudication while dealing with the pleas against the land acquisition, it, in the 34-page judgment, said: “Unfortunately, the learned Single Judge did not give findings on the other issues/grounds and on the reliefs sought and as observed hereinabove, disposed of the writ petitions considering only one relief/ground, namely, whether the acquisition proceedings have lapsed by virtue of the 2013 Act.

“When a number of submissions were made on the other issues/grounds, we are of the opinion that the High Court ought to have considered the other issues and ought to have given the findings on other issues also.”

The top court remanded the matter back to the single judge bench of the high court to decide issues, which were not answered in its verdict, by the end of 2022.

It added: “There has been a trend of land owners filing fresh cases seeking lapse of acquisition on the basis of Section 24 (2) of the Act, 2013, although such land owners may have earlier unsuccessfully filed writ petitions challenging the acquisition notifications.”

The bench also said that such land owners may have had the benefit of interim orders of stay of further proceedings in the acquisition process or is possession resulting in a delay in the making of the award and payment/deposit of the compensation and consequently in taking over possession of the acquired land.

“There being a delay in the passing of the award owing to interim orders granted by the High Court or even by the civil courts, where suits may have been filed against acquiring bodies, the land owners cannot now take advantage of the same so as to contend that no award has been made and consequently there has been no payment or deposit of the compensation and that possession of the acquired land continues with them,” it noted.

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