C’garh HC strikes down land acquisition for 4 power projectshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/cgarh-hc-strikes-down-land-acquisition-for-4-power-projects/

C’garh HC strikes down land acquisition for 4 power projects

The Bilaspur High Court has struck down land acquisition by the Chhattisgarh government for setting up four power projects in Raigarh and Janjgir-Champa districts

The Bilaspur High Court has struck down land acquisition by the Chhattisgarh government for setting up four power projects in Raigarh and Janjgir-Champa districts.

Justice Prashant Mishra refused to accept the state’s claim that the land was acquired in “public interest”. “Acquisition of prime agriculture land cultivating two crops for establishing power plants does not amount to public interest,” the judge said in his ruling on Tuesday. The court also ordered the government to pay Rs 5,000 to each petitioner farmer. Around 100 farmers had challenged the 2010-11 land acquisition.

The government had signed MoUs with four companies in 2008. While Visa Power (1200 MW) and SKS Power (1320 MW) were to set up plants in Raigarh,KSK Energy (3600 MW) and Moser Baer (1320 MW) in Janjgir-Champa.

“After signing the MoUs,the companies requested the government to acquire land for them. Chhattisgarh State Industrial Corporation then acquired land and leased to the companies,” said counsel for petitioners Sanjay Kumar.

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Pointing at the illegality in land acquisition,the court observed that the government wrongly invoked S 2 of the Land Acquisition Act,which authorises the government to forcibly acquire land for public purposes. Instead,the land should have been acquired under S 7 after holding due negotiations with farmers,the judge said.

The similar process was employed for acquiring land for Naya Raipur,when the government invoked the compulsory clause and acquired land of the protesting farmers,who have also challenged the acquisitions in HC. Justice Mishra also noted that in the present case only Collector was authorised to hold hearings on objections,but a junior officer conducted the hearing and gave the decision. There was “non-application of mind” during hearing,the court said,adding that the entire acquisition amounted to “colorable exercise of power”.