The National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) told the Bombay High Court Tuesday that it has found an alternate parcel of land that the Godrej Group suggested as “suitable” for acquisition to implement the bullet train project. Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited had contested the acquisition of its prime 39,547 sqm property in Vikhroli for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project in May.
An affidavit filed by Uday Prasad Singh, Chief Project Manager, NHSRCL states that the Godrej Group had offered a second alternative plot situated 215 metres westwards along the existing alignment of the bullet train. A small portion of this land is also under litigation.
“I say that upon the receipt of the petitioners second Alternate Proposal, the respondent no 4 (NHSRCL) have, after visiting the site, vide their letter dated July 26, 2018, conveyed their acceptance in principle stating that the site is prima facie suitable and they will examine in detail all other technical aspects and also submitted a slightly modified sketch for the petitioners’ consideration,” stated the five-page affidavit.
The affidavit further states, “…once the modified sketch submitted by the respondent no 4 (NHSRCL)…is acceptable to the petitioners coupled with encumbrance free and clear title to the land, a totally fresh Land Acquisition Proposal will be submitted to the collector, Mumbai Suburban District.” An earlier alternative plot of land offered by the Godrej Group, according to the NHSRCL, was under litigation pending before the High Court. The affidavit also said that the first alternate also had mangroves spread over an area of approximately 2,941sq mt.
A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice G S Kulkarni told the state government to verify the second alternate plot offered by petitioner and then inform the court if they have accepted it. Justice Patil also said that while making the decision regarding the plot “environment, mangroves and (coastal) zones have to be taken care of properly.” The court will hear the case next on September 3.
The petition was filed by Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited, urging the court to direct the respondents – the Centre, the state government, Deputy Collector (Land acquisition) and NHSRCL – to accept the alternative plot offered by them for the construction of bullet train to shift the ventilation shaft and traction substation/distribution substation proposed to be constructed on the land.
According to the petition, on April 4, this year, Godrej Group was served a notice dated March 26, 2018, for acquisition and taking possession of a plot of land measuring 39,547 sqm at Vikhroli by private negotiation, for the bullet train project.
Godrej Group said that the proposed plot was a part of a larger plot reserved under the sanctioned development plan, 1991, and under the draft development plan 2034 for a permanent exhibition ground. The petition stated that various steps had been taken to set up a joint venture company with the state government for the development, construction and management if a Permanent International Exhibit Centre cum Convention Complex (PIECC).
Godrej Group had earlier said that they were ready to give another plot situated to the east of the Eastern Express Highway. The petition stated that “the alternate plot would involve the ventilation shaft location being moved by only a very short distance of approximately 190 meters, the line of the bullet train alignment would not in any manner be altered, the alternate plot was merely on the other side of the Eastern Express Highway and if the alternate plot was accepted, it would not result in severance of the proposed plot which was reserved as part of a larger plot PIECC and would not result in wastage of 12 acres”.
The total land to be acquired for the Bullet Train project is over 1,400 hectares, with 353 hectares in Maharashtra and the rest in Gujarat. This is divided into 7,000 plots, in 195 villages in Gujarat and in 104 villages in Maharashtra. The project covers three districts in Maharashtra and eight in Gujarat, besides a small area in Dadra and Nagar Haveli.