Thursday, March 30, 2023

Bombay High Court reserves order on acquisition of land belonging to Godrej & Boyce for Bullet Train project

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The High Court of Bombay has reserved its judgment on acquisition of land belonging to the Godrej & Boyce for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Project, also known as the Bullet Train project. 

The petition, filed by Godrej & Boyce, came up for hearing before the Division Bench of Justice R.D. Dhanuka and Justice M.M. Sathaye on Tuesday.

Representing the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh sought direction to the petitioner for handing over the land, which was still in Godrej’s possession, to carry out measurements.

However, the High Court told NHSRCL to hold on for some more time, as they had already waited this long.

Appearing for the Maharashtra acquisition authority, former Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni pointed out that Section 38 of the Land Acquisition Act stipulated that after an acquisition award was passed, possession had to be handed over to the relevant authorities within three months.

He said in the present case, the three-month period had expired while the petition was being argued. However, the authorities had put off taking action, considering the fact that the plea was pending.

Both the Counsels raised apprehensions that the company may use this as an argument against the authorities to say that no attempt was made by the authorities to take possession of the land.

Senior Advocate Navroz Seervai, representing the Godrej-Boyce, assured the Court that no such argument would be advanced. 

On Monday, the ASG had argued that NHSRCL had completed 100 percent acquisition of land in Gujarat and commenced work for the bullet train project.

In Maharashtra, the company had completed acquisition of only 97 percent of land because lands owned by parties such as Godrej & Boyce were pending for acquisition, he added.

As per Singh, the present petition was only causing delay to a project of public and national importance, which could escalate the costs of the project. 

The Counsel pointed out that NHSRCL had first identified the land and after Godrej agreed to land acquisition, it realigned the project. 

Speaking about compensation, the ASG said that a higher amount could be considered and granted, but the company cannot say no to land acquisition at this stage.

Singh further said that neither any structure was built, nor any activity was going on over the land in question. Money has been deposited before the authority (land acquisition authority).

Over and above the award amount, the company will get an interest of Rs 38 crore. If the Court decides to increase compensation, it will be given, but the project should not suffer, added the ASG.

Earlier, the government of Maharashtra had sought dismissal of the petition on the grounds that there was no violation of the fundamental rights of Godrej & Boyce.  

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