The Supreme Court on Monday expressed virtual disapproval of the practice of acquiring land from farmers and giving it to private entrepreneurs, saying “this practice has to be changed. You can’t take the land from X and give it to Y.” Referring to the “outdated” provisions of the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, the bench said: “this should change. If
the government is not going to do it, then the court has to do it. The development is not for a few. It should percolate down to all.”
“Why reduce our agriculture land. Barren land can be used for this purpose,” the apex court said and asked all the states to follow the policy of Tamil Nadu, which has laid down guidelines that the officials would first search for barren land for any project.
In response to GNIDA counsel Altaf Ahmed’s argument that Tamil Nadu could be an exception and the land by UP government was acquired for development purposes as per the provisions of the LAA, the top court sought specific detail whether efforts were made to identify the government land first, or any other barren land for these projects.
The HC had quashed UP government’s acquisition orders mainly on the grounds that there was no proper and prior consultation with the farmers by the authorities and they were paid compensation at much lower rate of `850 per sq. metre, while the same land was being sold to the private parties at a whooping price of `10,000 per sq. metre, which amounted to exploitation of the land owners.
Taking note of the HC order, the apex court bench asked “If land owners were given any opportunity? Any alternative land was given to them/” pointing out that they had lost everything.
“What will they get? Are you going to give them flats?’ the exasperated apex court bench demanded from the government counsel while questioning the invoking of the “urgency clause” by the state for acquiring farmers’ fertile agriculture land. The SC wanted to know for whom the residential flats were being built, who were the real estate developers benefiting from the acquisition orders and what were the rates fixed for the flats. “We want to go into the details. Urgency clause can’t be invoked automatically,” the judges said.
The SC has taken a tough stance against acquiring agriculture land brazenly for non-agriculture purposes, which was resulting in shrinkage of farms as well as strife-like situation in several parts of the country. Asian Age