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The respondent Narmada Bachao Andolan (hereinafter called as NBA) has filed the aforesaid applications for expunging certain adverse remarks made in paragraphs = In view of the above, para 145 of the judgment stands modified to the extent as under: “In view of the above, we reach the inescapable conclusion that the NBA has not acted with a sense of responsibility and not taken appropriate pleadings as required in law. However, in a PIL, the court has to strike a balance between the interests of the parties. The court has to take into consideration the pitiable condition of oustees, their poverty, inarticulateness, illiteracy, extent of backwardness, unawareness also. It is desirable that in future the court must view presentation of any matter by the NBA with caution and care, insisting on proper pleadings, disclosure of full

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 REPORTABLE

 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 I.A. NOS. 256-270 & 271-285 OF 2011 

 IN

 CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 2083-2097 of 2011

State of Madhya Pradesh ...Appellant

 Versus

Narmada Bachao Andolan & Anr. ....Respondents 

 WITH

 I.A. NOS. 31-45 & 46-60 OF 2011 

 IN

 CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 2098-2112 of 2011

 O R D E R

J.M. PANCHAL, J.

1. The respondent Narmada Bachao Andolan (hereinafter 

called as NBA) has filed the aforesaid applications for 

expunging certain adverse remarks made in paragraphs 

 2

129-132 and 145 of the judgment and order in the aforesaid 

civil appeals dated 11.5.2011. 

2. These applications have been filed on the grounds that 

adverse remarks made against the applicants are 

unwarranted and uncalled nor based on any 

material/evidence on record. More so, they were not 

necessary to adjudicate upon the controversy involved in 

the appeals. Thus, the same may be expunged. 

 In the said appeals, a large number of factual and legal 

issues had arisen. However, this court was concerned with 

acquisition of land to the extent of 284.03 hectares falling in 

5 villages named therein for the reason that the State 

authorities had taken a decision to abandon the land 

acquisition proceedings and not to conclude the same. 

Before the High Court the applicants had pleaded that order 

of the Authorities to abandon the proceedings was void ab-

initio as possession of the land in dispute had already been 

taken. The High Court came to the conclusion that as the 

possession of the land in dispute had already been taken it 

was not permissible for the appellants herein to resort to the 

 3

provisions of Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 

(hereinafter called 1894 Act). 

3. When the matter came in appeal before this Court, the 

factual controversy arose as to who was in actual physical 

possession of the land. The NBA had taken a stand that as 

the tenure holders of the said land had already been 

dispossessed the question of abandoning the land 

acquisition proceedings could not arise. The State 

authorities submitted that actual physical possession is still 

with the tenure holders and the stand taken by the NBA 

was not factually correct. It was in view thereof that this 

court on 24.2.2011 passed the following order:

 "The learned counsel appearing for the parties 

 would be at liberty to submit their written 

 submissions within 10 days from today in SLP(C) 

 Nos. 31047-31061/2009 & SLP(C) Nos. 34195-

 34209/2009. However, during the course of 

 hearing it has been seriously contended by the 

 State of M. P. that actual physical possession of 

 the land ad-measuring 284.03 hect. falling in five 

 villages viz. Dharadi, Kothmir, Narsinghpura, 

 Nayapura and Guwadi has not been taken by the 

 State, in spite of resorting to acquisition 

 proceedings to a certain extent. This fact has 

 been seriously refuted by respondent No.1 i.e. 

 Narmada Bachao Andolan and it has been 

 contented that actual physical possession 

 has been taken, which is projected in various 

 4

 documents including the affidavits sworn by the 

 oustees/cultivators of the said land. They have 

 also placed reliance on the entries in the revenue 

 records which reflected the position that the 

 Executive Engineer of the Company was in 

 possession of the said land measuring 284.03 

 hect. also. In the light of serious contentions 

 raised by both the parties it is in fact not possible 

 for us to come to a definite conclusion as to who 

 is in actual possession of the land today. 

 In view of this, we deem it fit and 

 proper to request the learned 

 District Judge, Indore to make a 

 spot inspection and submit his report with regard 

 to the land ad-measuring 284.03 hect. 

 situated in the aforesaid five villages. Before 

 going to the spot, he will inform the parties 

 concerned so that they may, if so desire, 

 remain present at the time of 

 inspection and render proper 

 assistance in identifying the land in question. 

 We clarify that we are not concerned 

 with the total land of those villages, 

 rather the controversy is limited to 284.03 

 hect., which the State does not 

 want to acquire. It may also be mentioned in 

 the report as to whether there is any crop 

 standing on the said land or part of it and if it is 

 so, who had sown the crop. If the crop has 

 recently been removed or land has been tilled, 

 who has done so. Let the report be submitted 

 by the District Judge within a period of 15 days 

 from the date of communication of this order." 

4. Such an order was necessary for the reason that the 

affidavit filed on behalf of `NBA' dated 1.7.2010 clearly 

provided that the order passed by the authorities dated 

2.4.2009, not to acquire the land of the 5 villages was a 

 5

nullity and void ab-initio because the possession of the land 

had already been taken in December 2007. 

5. In pursuance of the said order, the District Judge, 

Indore videographed the entire land in dispute and 

recorded the statements of the tenure-holders in the 

presence of the representative of `NBA' and came to the 

conclusion that the tenure-holders were in actual physical 

possession of the said land. 

6. The copy of the report along with CDs were supplied to 

the parties. They were given opportunity and they availed 

the same by filing objections thereto and advanced their 

arguments. It was after considering the same, the matter 

was decided, wherein finding has been recorded that as the 

report was prepared in presence of the representative of 

`NBA', the same was worth acceptance and it was in view 

thereof, further a finding was recorded that the claim made 

by the `NBA' regarding the physical possession of the land 

was not factually correct. The `NBA' had been afforded full 

opportunity to make out the case. Their past conduct was 

 6

also pointed out and dealt with in paragraph 133 of the 

judgment dated 11.5.2011.

7. In fact the application filed by the State under Section 

340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter 

called Cr.P.C.) was at a later stage, i.e. on 31.3.2011 and 

this court has not decided the same. Therefore, the 

contents of that application or issuance of notice on the 

same did not have any bearing so far as the main judgment 

is concerned. 

8. It is in this background the submissions have been 

advanced by Shri Rajinder Sachar, Shri Rajiv Dhavan, 

learned senior counsel and Shri Sanjay Parikh that there 

was no occasion for the court to pass the adverse remarks 

in the aforesaid paragraphs of the judgment as it amounts 

to black listing the NBA. The NBA had taken a consistent 

stand throughout the proceedings that the word `possession' 

denotes different meanings so far as the 1894 Act and R & R 

Policy are concerned. In law it may be permissible under the 

1894 Act that a person may be dispossessed but he may 

continue in possession because of the R & R Policy. 

 7

Therefore, adverse remarks have been made by this court 

under total misconception and the same be expunged. 

9. On the contrary, Shri P.S. Patwalia, learned senior 

counsel has vehemently opposed the applications 

contending that NBA cannot be permitted to make a totally 

new case. The only issue involved had been as who was in 

actual physical possession of the land and had it been the 

case of NBA that the tenure holders were not in possession 

of the land, question of appointing the Commissioner i.e. 

District Judge, Indore would not have arisen. Accepting the 

submissions made by the applicants would render the order 

dated 24.2.2011 insignificant/meaningless as a futile 

exercise. Thus, the applications are liable to be rejected. 

10. In State of U.P. v. Mohammad Naim, AIR 1964 SC 

703, this Court was asked by the State of U.P. - the 

appellant, to quash the adverse remarks made by the High 

Court of Allahabad against the police department as a whole 

e.g.- "That there is not a single lawless group in the whole of 

the country whose record of crime comes anywhere near the 

 8

record of that organised unit which is known as the Indian 

Police Force."

 This Court held that the court in its inherent 

jurisdiction can expunge the adverse remarks suo moto or 

even on application of a party. However, there must be a 

ground for expunging as such remarks were not justified, or 

were without foundation, or were wholly wrong or improper 

and expunging thereof is necessary to prevent abuse of the 

process of the court or otherwise to secure the ends of 

justice. However, the court must bear in mind that such 

jurisdiction being of exceptional nature must be exercised 

only in exceptional cases. The cardinal principle of the 

administration of justice requires for proper freedom and 

independence of Judges and such independence must be 

maintained and Judges must be allowed to perform their 

functions freely and fairly and without undue interference 

by anybody, even by this Court. However, it is also equally 

important that in expressing their opinions the Judges must 

be guided by consideration of justice, fair play and restraint. 

It should not be frequent that sweeping generalisations 

 9

defeat the very purpose for which they are made. Thus, it is 

relevant to consider:

 (a) whether the party whose conduct is in 

 question is before the court or has an 

 opportunity of explaining or defending himself; 

 (b) whether there is evidence on record bearing 

 on that conduct justifying the remarks; and 

 (c) whether it is necessary for the decision of the 

 case, as an integral part thereof, to animadvert 

 on that conduct. 

11. This view has been persistently approved and followed 

by this Court as is evident from the judgments in Jage 

Ram, Inspector of Police & Anr. v. Hans Raj Midha, AIR 

1972 SC 1140; R.K. Lakshmanan v. A.K. Srinivasan & 

Anr., AIR 1975 SC 1741; Niranjan Patnaik v. Sashibhusan 

Kar & Anr., AIR 1986 SC 819; Major General I.P.S. 

Dewan v. Union of India & Ors., (1995) 3 SCC 383; Dr. 

Dilip Kumar Deka & Anr. v. State of Assam & Anr., 

(1996) 6 SCC 234; and State of Maharashtra v. Public 

Concern for Governance Trust & Ors., AIR 2007 SC 777.

 1

12. Thus, the law on the issue emerges to the effect that 

the court may not be justified in making adverse 

remarks/passing strictures against a person unless it is 

necessary for the disposal of the case to animadvert to those 

aspects in regard to the remarks that have been made. The 

adverse remarks should not be made lightly as it may 

seriously affect the character, competence and integrity of 

an individual in purported desire to render justice to the 

other party. 

13. In the case, at hand, the Court had not to decide the 

issue of justification of the tenure-holders for retaining the 

possession of the land rather the question was, as who is in 

actual physical possession of the land. Had it been the case 

of justification of retaining the possession of the land by the 

tenure-holders without being rehabilitated, the question of 

appointing the Commissioner i.e. District Judge, Indore, 

would not have arisen.

14. Observations/remarks made in the judgment dated 

11.5.2011 are based on the pleadings taken into 

 1

consideration as has been taken note of in paras 114 and 

115 which mainly read as under: 

 "114. The High Court while dealing with the said 

 applications did not deal with the issue 

 specifically as to whether the possession of the 

 land has actually been taken or even symbolic 

 possession has been taken by the State; as to 

 whether the persons interested have been evicted 

 from the said land; or they have voluntarily 

 abandoned their possession; or they are still in 

 physical possession of the land; or as to whether 

 after being evicted they had illegally encroached 

 upon the land in dispute. A direction has been 

 issued observing as under:

 "The lands in these 5 villages of the 

 oustees were acquired by notifications 

 issued under the Land Acquisition Act, and 

 the NVDA has now passed an order on 

 2.4.2009 saying that the land/property of 

 these 5 villages shall not be acquired and 

 the action taken till now be dropped as per 

 the provisions of law.......The respondents, 

 therefore, will have to provide all the 

 rehabilitation benefits to the villagers of the 

 5 villages and for the purpose of 

 rehabilitation, the order dated 2.4.2009 of 

 the NVDA is of no consequence. The two IAs 

 stand disposed of." 

 115. The appellants herein have raised an 

 objection that the tenure holders of the said land 

 are still in actual physical possession and they 

 had never been evicted. However, on behalf of 

 the respondent i.e. Narmada Bachao Andolan, 

 Shri Alok Agrawal, Chief Activist of the 

 organisation, has filed the counter affidavit dated 

 1.2.2010 before this Court, wherein it has 

 specifically been mentioned as under:

 1

 (a) ........ 

 (b) The order dated 2.4.2009 as not to 

 acquire the land of the five villages is a 

 nullity and void ab initio because the 

 possession of the lands has already been 

 taken. The land has already vested in the 

 State. This may be seen from the judicial 

 orders of Reference Courts Devas; the land 

 record of the revenue authorities of the State 

 Government, the order of the Land 

 Acquisition Officer and the affidavits of the 

 concerned oustees which were placed on 

 record before the said authorities. 

 (c) .....

 (d) .....

 (e) ...... 

 (f) ...... 

 (g) ...... 

 (h) The oustees of the five villages had filed 

 a large number of affidavits before the 

 authorities/courts concerned stating that 

 possession of their lands/properties 

 acquired had been taken in December 

 2007. 

 (Emphasis added) 

15. Thus, in view of the above, the arguments advanced on 

behalf of the applicants are not justified. The applicants 

cannot be permitted to make out a new case to justify 

expunging of adverse remarks. More so, while making 

certain observation against the `NBA' the guidelines laid 

 1

down by this Court in Mohd. Naim (Supra) had strictly been 

observed. Remarks have been made as it was necessary to 

do so while deciding the controversy involved therein. The 

submissions so made are not worth acceptance. 

 However, learned counsel appearing for the applicants 

have submitted that the NBA has rendered great service for 

a long number of years to the down trodden and poor 

farmers and thus NBA should not be deprived of the 

opportunity to represent poor peasants. Mr. Sanjay Parikh 

learned counsel has expressed remorse on behalf of the 

applicants that the applicants ought to have acted with 

more responsibility. 

16. In view of the above, para 145 of the judgment stands 

modified to the extent as under: 

 "In view of the above, we reach the inescapable 

 conclusion that the NBA has not acted with a 

 sense of responsibility and not taken appropriate 

 pleadings as required in law. However, in a PIL, 

 the court has to strike a balance between the 

 interests of the parties. The court has to take into 

 consideration the pitiable condition of oustees, 

 their poverty, inarticulateness, illiteracy, extent of 

 backwardness, unawareness also. It is desirable 

 that in future the court must view presentation of 

 any matter by the NBA with caution and care, 

 insisting on proper pleadings, disclosure of full 

 1

 facts truly and fairly and should insist for an 

 affidavit of some responsible person in support of 

 facts contained therein." 

17. With these observations, the applications stand 

 disposed of. 

 ...........................J.

 (J.M. PANCHAL)

 ...........................J. 

 (DEEPAK VERMA)

 ...........................J.

 (Dr. B.S. CHAUHAN)

 New Delhi September 29, 2011

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