This ‘property’ was over 300 m long, a solidly built mass of steel and aluminium with impressive specs, and could accommodate several hundred people at a time. On Thursday morning, it barely escaped being attached.
In the nick of time, Senior Station Engineer S K Sharma produced photocopies of two bank drafts for amounts adding up to over Rs 35 lakh, saving the New Delhi-Una Jan Shatabdi Express from attachment, and its Delhi-bound passengers from an uncertain journey. The train left Una on schedule at 5 am.
Una Additional District and Sessions judge Mukesh Bansal had on April 9 ordered that the Jan Shatabdi Express be attached on April 16, should the Indian Railways fail to pay compensation to two farmers whose land had been acquired to build the Una-Chururu section of the Una-Talwara line in 1998.
Before dawn on Thursday, an hour ahead of the train’s departure, the farmers, Mela Ram, 68, and Madan Lal, 55, reached Una station with their advocate Arun Kumar Saini for the execution of the court’s order. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled departure — or attachment — however, railway official Sharma informed the court bailiff that the order to release the farmers’ compensation had been complied with.
Sharma, who came with copies of a draft for Rs 26,53,814 (for Madan Lal) and one for Rs 8,91,424 (for Mela Ram), told the court bailiff, Bansi Lal, that the Railways had had very little time to act on the order. “There were holidays as well, including one for Himachal Day (April 15), causing some delay,” he said. Lal had come to the station armed with copies of the court order to attach the train. Sharma handed over to him authenticated photocopies of the drafts, and an undertaking that the drafts would be submitted to the Registrar General of the Himachal Pradesh High Court in Shimla.
There was drama earlier after the two farmers and their families arrived at the station. Over a dozen other farmers, many of whom too await compensation in similar cases, showed up as well. The Railways had acquired prime, irrigated land in Chururu village in 1997-98, paying a meagre compensation of Rs 5,500 to Rs 6,000 per kanal. The farmers went to court and, in 2009, the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Una, enhanced the compensation granted by the Land Acquisition Officer (LAO) of the Railways.
In 2011, the Railways appealed to the High Court, which initially stayed the order, but in 2013, directed Railways to pay the compensation in six weeks. “But the Railways was not willing. It adopted a completely negative and hostile attitude even in dealing with court orders. Though the High Court had passed its order in 2013 giving six months to deposit the money, nothing was done until December 2014. So we filed an application for execution of the order. The court on April 9 ordered attachment of Jan Shatabdi Express,” Saini, the petitioners’ lawyer, said.
“Today, they have told the court’s nominee about the money having been deposited. We will ask the court to get the money paid to the farmers at the earliest,” he told The Indian Express. Subhash, Madan Lal’s brother, said, “How can we believe just a piece of paper? The money must come into our accounts. We have sold our land to fight our case for compensation. What we have got has to be distributed among five brothers and our mother. After paying the lawyer and for other expenses, we will be left with peanuts.”
Meanwhile, during Thursday’s hearing, Additional District and Sessions Judge Bansal rejected the Railways’ plea to drop proceedings for the attachment of the train. This was after the court’s representative, Bansi Lal, submitted his report on the morning’s episode. The court observed that the bank drafts were not in the names of the farmers, and that they ought to have been submitted before the Una court, not the High Court – which had already disposed of the case and given orders for payment of compensation in six weeks. Almost 10 months have passed since the HC order.
“We will issue fresh orders on May 2 if compensation is not paid to the farmers before the next hearing,” judge Bansal said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines