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SC Quashes Mayawati's Land Acquisition For Jail

PTI 03 Aug 2011, 20:11:29 IST

New Delhi, Aug 3: In a fresh jolt to Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court today quashed the state's move to acquire private land by invoking the “emergency clause” in Jyotibha Phule Nagar for construction of the district jail.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu said the state had seriously erred in acquiring the land by denying the land owners their valuable right to raise objections and being heard to express their grievances.

The apex court had recently quashed the state government's acquisition of vast tracts of land in Noida, a decision which had hit hard major real estate developers and thousands of house owners who had invested in these projects.

In the present case, the apex court said the emergency clause under Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act was invoked by the government in a lackadaisical manner even though the state had sufficient time to go through the normal procedure of inviting objections and addressing the grievances of the land losers.

Section 17 grants the government unbridled power to acquire any private land for a public purpose without inviting objections from the aggrieved land owners.

“The series of events shows lethargy and lackadaisical attitude of the state government. In the light of the above circumstances, the respondents are not justified in invoking the urgency provisions under Section 17 of the Act, thereby depriving the appellants of their valuable right to raise objections and opportunity of hearing before the authorities in order to persuade them that their property may not be acquired,” Justice Dattu said writing the judgement.

The apex court noted that the district magistrate, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, had sent a proposal to the Principal Secretary, Home/Prisons, UP government, for acquiring suitable land on January 24, 2003.

But it was only after a lapse of five years in 2008 that the state government asked the magistrate to trace availability of suitable land for acquisition. Thereafter, the government zeroed in on the land and invoked the emergency clause.

Though the aggrieved land owners Devendra Singh and others had approached the Allahabad High Court, the latter dismissed their petition, following which they appealed in the apex court.

The apex court said it was well settled that acquisition of the land for public purpose by itself shall not justify the exercise of power conferred under Section 17 and its sub clauses.

“The court should take judicial notice of the fact that certain public purpose such as development of residential, commercial, industrial or institutional areas by their intrinsic nature and character contemplates planning, execution and implementation of the schemes which generally takes a few years.

“Therefore, the land acquisition for the said public purpose does not justify the invoking of urgency provisions under the Act.

“For the reasons aforesaid, we hold that the state government was not justified, in the facts of this case, in invoking the emergency provision of Section 17(4) of the Act.

Therefore, the appellants cannot be denied of the valuable right under Section 5-A of the Act, Justice Dattu said. PTI