The Supreme Court on Thursday slammed Anandiben Patel,Gujarat Revenue Minister and a trusted aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as it trashed her decision to allow direct resale of around 40-acre of agricultural land in Kutch area.
A Bench of Justices H L Gokhale and J Chelameswar scorned the Chief Minister’s number two for dictating the Collector and other authorities to act as per her mandate without giving reasons for her decision.
Patel had in 2009 directed the Collector concerned to allow direct sale of the land by Indigold Refinery to Alumina Refinery after the former failed to set up its project within the three-year deadline. However, the law required first an assessment by the Collector and then resale of the land after taking it back.
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Indigold had consequently sold the land to Alumina for Rs 1.20 crore whereas the price of the land as per the official list was Rs 4.35 crore.
“The ministers are not expected to act in this manner and therefore, this particular route through the corridors of the ministry, contrary to the statute, cannot be approved. The present case is clearly one of dereliction of his duties by the Collector and dictation by the Minister, showing nothing but arrogance of power,” said the court.
It noted that Patel had also ignored the apprehensions of protest by the farmers, as mentioned by the secretaries in their records, and simply dictated the Collector to treat this as a “special case”.
“While over-ruling the opinion of secretaries to the concerned department, the Minister was expected to give some reasons in support of the view she was taking. No such reason has come on record in her file notings. She has ignored that howsoever high you may be, the law is above you,” said the court.
Terming her decision as an “arbitrary exercise of power”, the Bench said that Patel’s direction for the sale was “clearly in breach of the statute”, and that she had failed to pay the respect to the inbuilt wisdom in the statute which is the mandate of the legislature and represented the people.
The court held that the direct resale was beyond the pale of the law and it could not be allowed. Partly allowing the appeal by Congress leader Deepak Babaria against the sale, the court asked Alumina to pay the difference of Rs 3.15 crore to the state within three months if it was still interested in the project and ensure there was no loss to the public exchequer due to Patel’s decision.
“On such a payment being made, an order of allotment of the land to Alumina will be issued by the state government,” it said while adding if Alumina did not pay the amount, the government will proceed to dispose of the land in accordance with the law.