Farmers of Devbhoomi Dwarka district get interim relief after moving a writ of mandamus against Essar Power and the state government
By Kaushik Joshi
Fearing arm-twisting by the state machinery, including the police, some farmers of Dev-bhoomi Dwarka district in Gujarat recently moved Gujarat High Court for issuing a writ of mandamus, restraining Essar Power Gujarat Ltd and the state government from evicting them from agricultural land.
A writ of mandamus is a writ which orders a public agency or governmental body to perform an act required by law which it has neglected or refused to do so.
Incidentally, Essar Power is among India’s largest power generation companies and has an installed capacity of 3,940 MW. It requires the land to build a corridor for transporting coal stocks.
The petitioners submitted before the court that the matter was urgent as the respondents were intent on dispossessing them from the land in question. Taking this into consideration, the matter was placed at the residence of Acting Chief Justice VM Sahai, who, along with Justice RP Dholaria, heard the matter.
The court restrained Essar Power Ltd and the state government from taking possession of the agricultural land till the next date of listing. It said “the respondent shall not interfere in peaceful enjoyment of the petitioners’ land”.
The petitioners said that their land was not acquired and that the respondents were threatening to take possession of it in view of the award given by the collector for the same, dated September 30, 2014. However, the petitioners said their lands were not covered by the award. After the hearing, the court ordered that the petitioners were entitled to interim relief. It restrained Essar Power Ltd and the state government from taking possession of the agricultural land till the next date of listing. It further directed that “the respondent shall not interfere in peaceful enjoyment of the petitioners’ land”.
This issue has taken political overtones, with Congress spokesperson and Abdasa MLA Shaktisinh Gohil accusing the BJP government of hobnobbing with Essar Power and favoring it by giving away gauchar (grazing) land, throwing norms of the Land Acquisition Act to the winds.
He has also accused Essar Power of for-cibly acquiring farmland in the district in collusion with the BJP government in the state. Further, he accused it of raiding three villages on June 30 this year with the help of the state machinery and starting to take possession of the land. He also contended that the farmers were offered a lower price for the land acquired.
Essar and the BJP government have, however, rubbished these allegations. Essar Power stated that there was no forceful possession and that compensation was paid for the lands acquired.
For the poor farmers, however, the interim relief comes as a fresh lease of life.