To step in to prevent “more Nandigrams”

The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for acquiring prime agricultural land to build luxury flats in Greater Noida and questioned the invoking of an urgency clause that bars farmers from raising objections. It noted it would step in to prevent “more Nandigrams.”

“Whose residential use are these flats for? Who is building them? What are the prices? We want to go into details of the case. This urgency clause is not automatically invoked.... We do not want more Nandigrams in all States,” a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and A.K. Patnaik said.

The court said it would not like a situation similar to Nandigaram in West Bengal, where such steps to acquire land by invoking an urgency clause led to large scale protests and violence.

“We will not keep our eyes closed. You take it [agricultural land] from one side and give it to the other. This has to go and if it does not go, this court will step in to ensure that. It is development of one section of society only,” it said.

The Bench made the observations while hearing petitions filed by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority and real estate developers and builders, including Supertech and Amrapali, challenging the Allahabad High Court order that quashed the notifications for land acquisition in Greater Noida.

The apex court expressed its annoyance over the invocation of the urgency clause for taking over the land on which high–cost residential flats were being constructed.

Hearing on July 5

Without issuing any notice, it posted the matter for detailed hearing on July 5.

The Bench came out with the comments after it was informed that the High Court had quashed the notification based on the contention that the agricultural land was initially acquired for industrial purpose at a cheap price but was later “swapped” and transferred to builders for residential use.

Counsel for Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority contended that the acquisition was part of its “well known” 2021 plan, called the Industrial Development Plan. It was a generic term that included commercial and residential use, he said.

The Bench, however, asked the Authority as to whether efforts were made at all by it to find any other land which is not in agricultural use.

“Are you going to allot one apartment to each one of them [farmers]? If the government is having any barren land, let that be given preference. Why should you give prime agricultural land” it asked.

On May 31, the High Court quashed the acquisition of 170 hectares at Gulistan village in Greater Noida for industrial development.

It said the acquisition of land in Greater Noida for residential apartments, which was done after invoking Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act and depriving the aggrieved persons of filing their objections on the ground that the matter was urgent, was a “colourable exercise of power.”

Rejects contention

The court rejected the contention that there was any urgency. It said the landowners have to be given an opportunity to file their objections.

This was the third time the court has set aside land acquisition in Greater Noida where the farmers are up in arms against the government's land acquisition, demanding adequate compensation for their land. They had clashed with the police last month.

On May 12 and May 15, it quashed the acquisition of more than 170 hectares in Gautam Budh Nagar district.