Taking over farmers' lands without following due procedure akin to state-sponsored terrorism: judge

The Supreme Court on Monday slammed the land acquisition policy of the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh and said any acquisition that deprived farmers of their land without following the due procedure was akin to “state-sponsored terrorism.”

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly was hearing appeals filed by farmers challenging the Allahabad High Court order upholding the land acquisition notification invoking the urgency provision and dispensing with the mandatory procedure of receiving objections.

The Bench issued notice to the State on the appeal by Radhay Shyam and other farmers from Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi, against the December 15, 2008 court decision.

Expressing anguish, Justice Singhvi told Additional Advocate-General Shail Dwivedi, appearing for the State: “Throwing out villagers from their land and taking away their livelihood and way of life is state-sponsored terrorism. Land cultivated by them for generations is taken away. Half of the compensation awarded to them is also taken away… What are we up to?”

Finding fault with the High Court order, the judge said, “The High Court should have at least heard the farmers instead of throwing out their case summarily. The High Court doesn't even think it proper to hear them out, that approach is perverse and absolutely unjust.”

When Mr. Dwivedi said the landowners were willing to settle, Justice Singhvi said: “What is the choice in the face of the might of the state? What else can they do or say? Is this the way to exercise powers [under Section 17(1) of the Land Acquisition Act]?” Mr. Dwivedi agreed that the land could not be taken away without giving the landowners a hearing.

The petitioners contended that the State government had no material to show that the acquisition was urgent. They claimed that it was the lands on which they had built houses 40 years ago in Gautambudh Nagar and such homesteads were exempt from acquisition under the State's own policy. There was no material to invoke the urgency clause and to dispense with the procedure of raising objections. They sought quashing of the High Court judgment.