Orders return of land to owners, major embarrassment to Mayawati government

In a major embarrassment to the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court on Thursday set aside notifications issued for acquisition of more than 100 hectares of land in Gautam Buddh Nagar district for “planned industrial development” in Greater Noida.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Sunil Ambawani and Justice Kashi Nath Pandey, while allowing several writ petitions filed by residents of Shahberi village in the district, said the entire action of acquiring the land was a “colourable exercise of powers” and ordered return of the land to their owners.

The Bench set aside two notifications issued by the State government on 10.06.2009 and 09.11.2009 for acquiring the land.

In the notification dated 10.06.2009, the State government had proposed “to acquire a total area of 156.93 hectares of land in the village,” while the one dated 09.11.2009, published in the official gazette, had “declared the acquisition of land.”

“The Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority [GNOIDA] was fully aware and was planning to use the land in village Shahberi and neighbouring villages for multi-storey housing complexes to be developed by builders on relaxed conditions.”

The court noted with concern “that on one hand, a request was made for acquiring the land for public purpose for planned industrial development, and on the other hand, a few days before the proposals were put up before the State government for issuing notification [dated 09.11.2009]... the GNOIDA, without informing the State government, held the Board's meeting for converting the land use for residential purposes to lease off the land to builders for housing complexes for earning profits.”

“The land is proposed to be acquired at the rate of about Rs.850 a square metre and to be given, within a month, to the builders at Rs.10,000 per square metre, and that too on payment of 5 per cent of the price, on allotment,” the court said.

Quashing the notifications issued by the government and “all consequential actions taken by GNOIDA,” the court ordered “the respondents will hand over the possession of the land back to the land owners.”