Stating that the upcoming Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project is the “pride of nation”, which will bring the country “at par” with developed countries of the world, the Ministry of Railways on Monday defended its notification authorising Gujarat government as an “appropriate authority” for acquiring land in the state belatedly.
In an affidavit filed in the Gujarat High Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions of farmers opposing the land acquisition for the high-profile project, the railway ministry said that they didn’t realise the need of the notification on the threshold of the project else they would not have waited even for a day.
Countering the farmers’ arguments that the railways’ notification was “illegal and arbitrary” as it was in violation of the provisions of the Central land acquisition law and issued three months after petitions were filed in the High Court against the land acquisition process, the railways stated: “This fact in itself suggests that if something is done unknowingly, but without there being any authority to do the same and if such authority is confirmed at a later stage by way of ratification, there is nothing wrong in the eyes of law, in as much as, the ratification is nothing but an approval of an act, which was performed in the first instance.”
Earlier this month, the ministry had told the High Court that on October 8, President of India issued a notification “entrusting the functions of the Central Government as appropriate Government under the said land acquisition act may be performed by the Government of Gujarat”.
But the petitioning farmers said that since the bullet train project involves more than one state — Gujarat, Maharashtra and Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli — the land acquiring authority should be the Central government.
One of the petitioners said that the government’s action was not reasonable as it denied farmers of Gujarat the “benefits of socially conscious and beneficial provisions for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement under the Central land acquisition law, which would be available to the residents of Dadra & Nagar Haveli, where the acquisition of land for the same purpose would be undertaken as per the Central law”.
The railway ministry brushed aside the argument, saying that “clause B of the said notification seeks to ratify all the actions so far taken by the state government in the matter of the acquisition of land within the territory of the state for the project in question.”
“This project (bullet train) in question is very important from the point of view of public interest of large, wherein the government of another country (Japan) has entered into an international treaty with India for funding and completion of this project. Therefore it is but natural that respondent No-6 (Ministry of Railways) would not like to take any chance and would like to see that the whole acquisition remains within the legal parameters,” it stated.
“The state (Gujarat) government’s actions have already been ratified and therefore, all the actions taken by the state government for acquiring the land for Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project would be valid,” the affidavit added.
Of the estimated 1,434 hectares of land needed for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore project, 353 ha falls in Maharashtra and 1,081 ha in Gujarat.