Activists see the admission as a huge first step towards repairing the expressway project mess

In a move which has left activists feeling vindicated, the State government has admitted in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court that excess land was indeed notified for the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project.

The affidavit is being seen as significant because this is the first time the State government has officially admitted that mistakes were made in notifying land for the project — something certain political parties, activists as well as potential land-losers have been saying all along.

The affidavit, which was filed in the Supreme Court on February 27, 2013, was made public by activists of the BMIC (NICE) Viruddha Janandolana at a press conference here on Tuesday.

7,709 acres excess land

On behalf of the State government, the Chief Secretary has said in the affidavit that 7,709 acres of excess land had been notified for the project which has been at the centre of controversy ever since its inception.

It is due to the notification of this excess land that allegations started being levelled that the infrastructure corridor was merely a smokescreen for a massive land grab by the proponents of the project in collusion with their political patrons.

Denotification

The affidavit further states that the State government has already denotified 2,728 acres of land that had been erroneously notified for acquisition.

However, the most important point in the affidavit is the suggestion that the excess lands might have been notified to benefit the project owner (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises) financially.

“Various organisations and landowners are demanding denotification of the remaining 4,981 acres not required for the project, and they have been agitating stating that the project company is seeking excess land particularly close to Bangalore and the same are being handed over by the government to help the project company financially,” the affidavit states.

“By taking note of the agitations and controversies surrounding the project, the State government has made a historic shift in its position,” said Vinay Srinivasa addressing Tuesday’s press conference.

The third notable submission in the affidavit is that the State government is unable to hand over 20,193 acres of land required for the project to NICE because the company has not been able to identify the lands that it requires for the completion of the expressway.

The affidavit states that the government had written to NICE twice seeking details of land required by it but it had failed to furnish the same.

Commercial value

This point assumes significance because activists have been alleging that lands have not been identified according to survey numbers deliberately to allow the project proponents to grab properties, according to their commercial value.

The last important point in the affidavit is likely to have a direct impact on the case of Sukumaran Menon, the retired BEML employee, who has been on a fast on M.G. Road for the last 741 days.

The affidavit says that the Supreme Court must quash the special leave petition (SLP) filed by NICE seeking a stay on the Karnataka High Court order delivered on June 15, 2011 in Mr. Sukumaran’s case.

Court’s observations

In this order the court had observed that the role of ex-government officials and others needs to be probed in addition to a probe into evasion of stamp duty and methods employed for acquisition of lands.

“Since the observations of the High Court are serious in nature, it is felt that it will be in public interest (sic) to take further action in respect of certain irregularities as observed by the High Court.”

Welcoming these submissions by the State government, Mr. Srinivasa said: “This affidavit should act as a deterrent for officials of the Revenue and Police Departments who tend to assist NICE in its wanton acquisitions and demolitions.”