IT Park: SC sets aside land acquisition for third phase

Slams the ‘casual manner’ of UT Administration,quashes three notifications.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi/chandigarh | Published: October 12, 2012 1:25:50 am

Slams the ‘casual manner’ of UT Administration,quashes three notifications

Censuring the Chandigarh Administration over its “casualness” in dealing with the issue of land acquisition,the Supreme Court on Thursday set aside land acquisition for the third phase of Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park near Sukhna in Chandigarh.

“The casual manner in which the senior officers of the Chandigarh Administration dealt with the serious issue of the acquisition of land of citizens signifies their total lack of respect for the constitutional provision…,” said a Bench led by Justice G S Singhvi,as it quashed three notifications issued by the Chandigarh administration between June 2006 and February 2007.

Allowing the landowners’ challenge to the notifications for acquisition of land for IT Park,phase II and III,the court observed that the Adviser to the Chandigarh Administrator was not even competent in law to grant approval for initiation of the acquisition proceedings or take decision on the reports submitted by the Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) so as to record his satisfaction that the land was needed for the specified public purpose.

The court also punctured holes in the LAO’s report on adjudication of objections by landowners against the acquisition. “A careful analysis thereof leaves no doubt that the officer concerned had not at all applied mind to the objections of the landowners and merely created a facade of doing so. LAO failed to discharge the statutory duty cast upon him to prepare a report after objectively considering the objections filed under Section 5A(1) and submissions made by the objectors during the course of personal hearing,” it noted.

Also,objecting to the language used in the declaration of the land being acquired for public purpose,the court said that it was clear that the authority issuing the same was totally unmindful of the requirement of the statute.

“This could be the only reason why instead of recording satisfaction of the appropriate government that the land is needed for a public purpose,the notification uses the expressions ‘appears to the Administrator’ and ‘likely to be needed’. This only adds to the casualness with which the entire issue of acquisition has been dealt with by the higher functionaries of the Chandigarh Administration,” it held.

The land acquisition for the construction of an IT Park had originally been cleared by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The SC had stepped in after landowners had challenged the High Court decision which had cleared the way for acquisition of land for IT Park,phase II and III.

The verdict came as a double whammy for the UT Administration as not only their ambitions to bring in more IT firms and provide jobs to hundreds of young IT experts have been quashed but there is also further considerable delay expected in the completion of the UT’s Master Plan.

Sources in the UT Administration said the already delayed Master Plan 2031,the draft for which was expected in the next few weeks,would be the worst affected due to the verdict.

Interestingly,while the UT Administration was trying to justify the acquisition of land for phase III,on the contrary,even the phase I and II of the IT Park are yet to be fully developed.

When contacted,Secretary (Information Technology) Prerna Puri and UT Finance Secretary V K Singh said,“We are awaiting a copy of the verdict and only then will we be able to analyze that on what grounds the acquisition has been quashed. Nevertheless it’s a court’s order and we are bound to abide by it.”

As a consequence of the verdict,the UT Administration will also have to take back the compensation amount that it had paid for the said acquisition to many of the farmers while the remaining went ahead and challenged it in the court of law.

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