Saturday, June 3, 2023

Land acquisition for Bullet Train project: Godrej & Boyce challenge Maharashtra government order in Bombay High Court

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The Bombay High Court has granted Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd two days time to amend its application related to acquisition of its land by the Maharashtra government for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project

The Bench of Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice Sharmila Deshmukh passed the order on the company’s petition, challenging an order of the Deputy Collector on September 15 for acquiring the company’s land, after giving them compensation of Rs 264 crore.

The High Court directed the company to carry out necessary amendments and fixed October 18 as the next date of hearing.

The application by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd sought directions to the state government to stay the proceedings and not to take any steps towards the implementation of the award.

It further sought leave from the Court to amend the petition of 2019, which had challenged the proceedings towards acquisition of land for the public project.

The company had filed a petition in 2019, challenging the amendment to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. As a result, the bullet train project was exempted from social impact assessment carried out by experts.

In 2019, the High Court had refused to grant immediate stay on the acquisition proceedings.

After giving multiple notifications in relation to the acquisition of land belonging to them for the project, the state government issued a notice to the company in January 2020, declaring that the state had decided to seize their land and called upon all persons interested to submit the nature of interest in the land.

The High Court directed Godrej to attend the hearing, which was arranged in June, 2020, and granted them liberty to approach the Court, if they were aggrieved by the order passed.

The company said no further developments took place after the order. It added that since no decision had been taken within the statutory timeline, the Collector of Mumbai Suburban District exercised powers and granted an extension of 12 months.

According to the company, the Collector had no powers to allow such extensions. Even if the Collector had powers, the same had been exercised after the expiry of the statutory timeline.

It said the Deputy Collector (Land Acquisition) passed an order on September 15, 2022, more than 26 months after the last hearing took place on July 15, 2020.

The company sought setting aside of the September 15 order on the grounds that due to the delay, the proceedings had lapsed.

In the meantime, the state of Maharashtra moved an urgent application to permit them to deposit the compensation amount, as awarded by the acquisition officer in court.

Objecting to this, the company pointed out that the state ought to have filed a proper application and not a circumvent procedure.

The company then prayed for interim relief, seeking directions to the acquisition officer to restrain from acting in furtherance of the award.

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