The Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Wednesday told the Gujarat High Court that it is ready to pay compensation to farmers for their lands in accordance with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Senior counsel Mihir Joshi, who represents RIL in the court, told the division bench, headed by Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, that “the company is ready to pay the compensation as per the new clause”. The bench was hearing a set of petitions moved by RIL and two other private companies, challenging section 24 (2) of the new act as unconstitutional.
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Before RIL moved the court, a group of farmers affected by land acquisition drive in 2008 for Reliance Special Economic Zone (SEZ) had moved the court in 2014, seeking their land back on the ground that they still have its physical possession and under the new act the acquisition of their land be declared lapsed.
Under Section 24 (2) of the new Act, that came into force on January 1, 2014, lands acquired under the previous 1894 Land Act (old act) five years or beyond before the new Act came into force such land acquisition will be treated as lapsed. RIL and two other firms — Essar and Sidhee Cement — have also moved the court, challenging the section as unconstitutional. These companies had acquired land under the old act for various projects, but couldn’t get the possession of land due to several reasons. The affected farmers have also approached the court for relief under the new Act.
In case of Reliance SEZ in Jamnagar, only 1.18% of total land, roughly 30 hectares, is required to be acquired. During the argument, Joshi told the court that there are small patches of lands which need to be taken into the fold. However, Joshi said, the present situation threatens to jeopardise the project. He said that the company had paid the compensation as per old Act to the nodal agency of state government for the acquisition.
During the argument, Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy asked the state government the reason why even after acquiring the land, the physical possession was not taken. The Advocate General replied that “these land were to be acquired in phased manner”. He also said that the companies “never showed urgencies”.
Following the argument, Chief Justice Reddy suggested that the affected farmers should be given compensation as per the new Act since the land in question has to be acquired. The bench told the lawyers representing the farmers to consider the suggestion since the settlement for land will happen in accordance with the new law which will ultimately benefit the farmers.
Senior advocate Anand Yagnik, who represents a group of farmers, pointed out that in the past, such exercise was carried out, but nothing was achieved. He said that he will consult his clients yet again. The hearing was adjourned to December 21.