In probably the first application of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, Re-settlement Act, 2013, enacted by the Congress-led UPA-II Government, the Gujarat High Court has held acquisition of 16,064 square metre land at Jahangirpura in Surat by the state-owned Gujarat Electricity Transmission Corporation Limited (GETCO) as lapsed on the ground that GETCO did not take physical possession of the land within five years of acquisition.
The new act concerning private land acquisition by the state authorities has been in force since January 1, 2014, replacing the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
A single judge bench of the HC, comprising Justice R D Kothari, recently passed a judgment in this regard, while holding that the state government did not take physical possession of the land acquired by it in the 1980’s under the provisions of the old act and hence it got lapsed as per the new act.
The case relates to 16,064 sq m land of Jahangirpura in Surat acquired by the state government for setting up a sub-station of GETCO. The issue saw multiple litigations by the farmers whose land was acquired by the state government in 1987, but the physical possession stayed with the farmers. Amid these litigations, in 2000, the Gujarat government issued a showcause notice to the farmers under the provisions of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act,1971 to evict them from the land. The notice was challenged by the farmers at the district court which had allowed the petition. Against this order, the state authorities approached the HC.
However, the HC dismissed the petition while upholding the argument of the farmers’ lawyer, Anshin Desai, that under the provisions of the new land acquisition act, if the authorities did not take possession of the land or pay compensation for the same within five years of acquisition, then the acquisition will stand lapsed.
“In the present case, it cannot be disputed that physical possession was not taken by the petitioners. There is material on record showing plans etc. sanctioned by the municipal corporation. These were submitted by the respondent before the municipal commissioner.The proceedings under the Public Premises Act itself is sufficient to believe and hold that physical possession has still not been taken. Desai has submitted that in the present case also acquisition lapsed as possession was not taken within 5 years as provided under section 24(2) of the (new) Act,” the court observed while dismissing the state authorities’ appeal.