The Madras High Court on Friday dismissed appeals by landowners against an order of a single Judge relating to an award of the Special Tahsildar (Land Acquisition)-IV, Tamil Nadu Housing Board Schemes, Nandanam, for acquiring lands (16.82 acres) at Nerkundram, on the city's outskirts.

Earlier, writ petitions were filed by B. Gurubackiam and others praying the court to call for the records of the Special Tahsildar relating to an award dated October 31, 1997 and quash the same. The petitioners had challenged the award before the single Judge on the ground of delay in passing the award. They contended that since the award was not made within two years from the date of Draft Declaration under the Land Acquisition Act, the acquisition proceedings lapsed and therefore, the award was non-est in law.

The single Judge dismissed the writ petitions holding that the impugned award was not hit by the proviso to Section 11-A of the Act (Period within which an award shall be made.) Hence, the present batch of appeals.

The Additional Advocate-General, P.Wilson, said by an interim order of April 1981 on an earlier writ petition, dispossession alone was not stayed, but the entire proceedings were stayed. Therefore, there was no question of proceeding in preparation of the award.

The writ petitions were filed after one year from the date of award. Right from the date of the interim order till the civil appeal was finally allowed by the Supreme Court, the official authorities were restrained from proceeding with the preparation of the award. Hence, this period could not be counted in view of the proviso and explanation to Section 11-A.

In its judgment, the First Bench comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, said that on the facts of the case and the law, it had no hesitation to hold that the impugned award was not in any way hit by Section 11-A. Having regard to the interim orders passed in the writ petitions and the notification was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, the award had been passed within two years as provided in the provision.