:A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Thursday condemned the attitude of the Union and State governments towards the implementation of the Angamaly-Sabari railway line project.

The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice C.N. Ramachandran Nair and Justice P.S. Gopinathan made the observation while hearing arguments on a writ petition filed by the Action Council of Land Owners in Kalady seeking compensation for the acquired land.

The court pointed out that it was really a “dream project” conceived over a decade ago. In fact, Rs.60 crore had been allotted for acquiring land for the project. If this was the progress in the implementation of the project, it could not probably be implemented in the next 50 years, the Bench observed.

The court, therefore, felt that a positive directive could be issued for the completion of the project in a reasonable time. The court directed the Union Railway Ministry to file an affidavit detailing the progress so far made, its funding and the proposed completion time. The court asked the Railways to file the affidavit within two months. The court also directed the Railways to coordinate with the State government before filing the affidavit.

The Bench also suggested connecting the Sabari railway line to the Kollam-Madurai line so that more villages and towns could be connected by the line. A large number of people would be benefited by the extension of the proposed line. The court was of the view that this could be done with a little alteration in the proposed plan without affecting the forest. Counsel for the Railways submitted that the proposed Sabari line terminated at Erumeli since the line would pass through forest areas if it was extended.

As for the compensation for the land owners, the court observed that if the project was not completed with a stipulated time, the court would direct the authorities concerned to put the acquired land back in the possession of the owners, rather than ordering payment of compensation.

The court also directed the State government and the Railways to file objections, if any, to the suggestion that the land owners could not be awarded compensation on the basis of the rate in force at the time of the payment of compensation.

In the petition, Saji Joseph, convener of the Action Council and other land owners, said though the project was conceived 15 years ago, it was yet to be implemented. As their land had been acquired, they were not able to make any improvement on the land or their houses. They sought a directive to the State government to pay the compensation for the acquired land.

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