M.P. has obligation to allot land to Omkareshwar dam oustees, says Bench

The Supreme Court has directed the Madhya Pradesh government to allot land to the oustees affected by acquisition of land for the Omkareshwar dam as far as possible in accordance with the provisions of the relief and rehabilitation policy.

A Bench of Justices J.M. Panchal, Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan made it clear that the State had an obligation to allot land to the oustees.

It was disposing of a batch of appeals filed by the State and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Madhya Pradesh unit) against interim orders of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The Bench said: “In case an oustee has not accepted the compensation/Special Rehabilitation Grant or has any grievance in respect of area/quality/location of land allotted or for any other entitlement, he/she may approach the Grievance Redressal Authority and the GRA will adjudicate upon the issue and pass an appropriate order in individual cases after giving an opportunity of hearing to all the parties concerned. Needless to say, the person aggrieved by the order of GRA shall be entitled to approach the High Court for appropriate relief.”

On the plea of entitlement of major son for allotment of land as a separate family was concerned, the Bench said, “There is no such entitlement in view of the expert opinions rendered by CWC and other materials on record.”

The Supreme Court made the remarks in the case in which it had set aside a 2008 High Court judgment for treating every major member of a family as a separate unit for allotment of rehabilitation land.

The Bench, however, made it clear that the agricultural land of five villages was not to be acquired as it might only be under temporary submergence for a very short period, “which occurs throughout the country during floods in monsoon. And submergence is always beneficial to agricultural produce as the land gets enriched due to silting during the flood and becomes more fertile. More so, such an acquisition is not in the interest of the State as the land cannot be put to any use whatsoever, and there is a possibility that such land would be encroached upon by unscrupulous elements.”

Referring to the submissions made on behalf of the NBA that tenure holders had been dispossessed of their land, the Bench said, “It is evident from the inspection report that statements made by the said applicant/respondent in the court in this regard are factually incorrect and false. The court has been entertaining this petition under the bona fide belief that the NBA was espousing the grievance of inarticulate and illiterate poor farmers, with all sincerity and thus, would not make any misleading statement.”

However, the Bench said: “Our belief stands fully belied. Applicant/respondent made pleadings and advanced arguments without any basis only to secure unwarranted benefits to those tenure holders. In the instant case, it stands discredited totally in the eyes of this court. The court has been careful and cautious in this regard which has exposed the true picture. It becomes crystal clear that none of the tenure holders, so far as the land in dispute is concerned, has been evicted/dispossessed. All the tenure holders are enjoying the said land without any interference.”

“The tall claims made by the respondents before the High Court were totally false. The High Court was not justified in entertaining their applications in this regard without verifying the factual aspects.

“In view of the above, we reach the inescapable conclusion that the NBA has not acted with a sense of responsibility and so far succeeded in securing favourable orders by misleading the court. Such conduct cannot be approved.”

Pointing that out of the 29 projects contemplated on the Narmada river, some had already been completed and some could not be completed due to stay orders of the court, the Bench asked the State to take immediate steps to get the stay vacated and start the projects at the earliest.

RELATED NEWS

NBA to seek review of verdict May 15, 2011

More In: National | News