M A I N   N E W S

SC quashes land acquired for Chd IT Park expansion
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 11
The Supreme Court today quashed the acquisition of over 270 acres of land in the Manimajra area in 2006-07 by the Chandigarh Administration to expand the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park.

A Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya held that the land acquisition process was conducted in a “casual and mechanical” manner, giving a go-by to legal provisions meant for protecting the interests of farmers, small landholders, agriculture, environment and ecology.

The Bench noted that the Chandigarh Administrator was the sole authority that could acquire land on behalf of the Union Territory and no other officer “is competent to exercise the power” under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and the Land Acquisition (Companies) Rules, 1963.

However, in this case, the Administrator had delegated his power to his Advisor. “We hold that the Advisor to the Administrator was not competent to accord approval to the initiation of the acquisition proceedings or take decision on the reports submitted by the Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) under Section 5-A(2)” of the 1894 Act.

Further, “careful analysis” of the Land Acquisition Officer’s report “leaves no doubt that the officer concerned had not at all applied his mind to the objections of the landowners and merely created a façade of doing so”.

Pointing out that no evidence was given to the court to show that the Land Acquisition Officer had summoned revenue records and conducted spot inspection, the Bench said: “This leads to an inference that in both the reports, the officer made a misleading and false statement” on these two aspects.

“That apart, the reports do not contain an iota of consideration of the objections filed by the landowners. Mere reproduction of the substance of the objections cannot be equated with objective consideration thereof in the light of the submissions made by the objectors during the course of hearing.

“Thus the violation of the mandate of Section 5A(2) is writ large on the face of the reports prepared by the Land Acquisition Officer,” the SC held in the 77-page judgment.

Further, the Special Secretary, Finance, and Advisor to the Administrator had also failed to act in consonance with the provisions of the acquisition Act. “They could not muster the courage of expressing an independent opinion on the issue of compliance of Section 5A and need of the land for the specific public purpose,” the Bench noted.

“It seems that the officers were overawed by the view expressed by the Administrator and the instinct of self-preservation prompted them not to go against the wishes of the Administrator, who wanted that additional land be acquired in the name of expansion of the IT Park despite the fact that a substantial portion of the land acquired for Phase II had been allotted to a private developer,” the Bench observed.

As a result, the Collectors’ recommendations, without considering the landowners’ objections and the government’s failure to take an objective decision on the objections, “will denude the decision” of the statutory finality, the Bench held.

“The cases before us are illustrative of flagrant violation of the mandate of Sections 5A(2) and 6(1),” the SC said while allowing as many as 25 petitions filed by scores of affected landowners.

Since the acquisition was being quashed on these counts alone, the Bench said it would not go into the petitioners’ contentions that the government had taken over their land not for a bona fide public purpose and that in the garb of acquiring land for the IT Park the administration wanted to favour the private developers.

“In the result, the appeals are allowed, the impugned (High Court) order is set aside and notifications dated 26.6.2006, 2.8.2006 and 28.2.2007 issued by the Chandigarh Administration under Sections 4(1) and 6(1) of the Act are quashed,” the SC said.

While dismissing the landowners petitions, the HC had failed to notice the contentions that the Land Acquisition officer had not considered the objections relating to environment and ecology of the area and that his reports were not placed before the competent authority,” the Bench observed. 

Acquisition casual, Mechanical: Court

  • The UT Administration acquired over 270 acres of land in the Manimajra area in 2006-07 to expand the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park
  • The court said the acquisition was conducted in a “casual and mechanical” manner, giving a go-by to legal provisions
  • The UT Administrator was the sole authority to acquire land for the UT, but he delegated his power to the Adviser, the Bench said





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