The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday stayed the land acquisition proceedings for the Hathua-Bhatni rail link which was sanctioned in 2005-06 by the then railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav,reportedly to link his ancestral village with the villages of his relatives,including his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi.
While Hathua is in Gopalganj district of Bihar,Bhatni is in Deoria district of UP. The court passed the order on a petition for quashing the land acquisition proceedings for the project in UP. Of the nearly 80-km long project,around 12 kms fall in Uttar Pradesh.
The land acquisition proceedings for the project estimated to cost about Rs 230 crore began in 2009,leading to protests by farmers across 14 villages of Deoria district,adjoining Bihar.
Hearing the petition,a division bench led by acting Chief Justice Amitava Lala and Justice P K S Baghel directed status quo. It also sought replies from the Railway Ministry,Railway Board,North-Eastern Railway,UP government and Deoria district magistrate within two weeks. The next hearing has been fixed for September 12.
Sachindra Mishra,counsel for petitioners Triveni Yadav and others,said the main prayer in the petition was to quash the notification for land acquisition.
Our main grounds were that the land acquisition for railway projects should have been carried out under the special central Act for the purpose and not through Land Acquisition Act. Also,there was no ground for invoking the urgency clause. Further,the notice under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act should have been issued within one year of issuing notice under Section 4 of the same Act. This was not done in this case, said Mishra.
He added that the families of 500 farmers were affected in the process. The petition alleged that the farmers were being threatened for opposing land acquisition.
The petition said acquisition of 112.49 acres falling in 14 villages of Deoria was intended by the state government.
Although the two notices were issued in 2009 and 2010,the physical possession of the land has not yet been taken by the government.