Tamil Nadu government today told Supreme Court that it wants to invoke the “urgency clause” to acquire 2.5 kms of land of Kodanadu Estate belonging to former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha in picturesque Nilgiris district (Ooty) to avoid inconvenience to the local populace.
A Bench of Justices Mukundkam Sharma and A R Dave granted two weeks time to the AIADMK Chief and her friend N Sasikala who is a co-owner of the Estate to file their replies.
The 2.5 kms of land sought to be acquired forms part of a road used by 179 families of Kamaraj Nagar and Anna Nagar under the Kodanadu Panchayat.
Ms. Jayalalitha had purchased the Estate in 1995 and allegedly put up a gate on the road in 2007 and collected toll tax from those using the road, besides restricting their movement despite it being the only lifeline of the local population.
Under Section 17(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the government has the power to acquire any private land without resorting to the mandatory public hearing or giving an opportunity to the aggrieved party to be heard, though they would be entitled to compensation in return for the acquired land.
The dispute relating to blocking of public access by the Estate staff is already under adjudication in a civil dispute filed by M Holichandran, a resident, through a writ petition in 2008. Tamil Nadu has filed its counter affidavit after the court sought its views.
According to Tamil Nadu Government, the Kodanadu Panchayat has passed a resolution urging the government to acquire the land as the Estate staff was not only collecting toll tax between Rs 10 to Rs 100 but also not permitting vehicles to pass through during the night hours, thus causing inconvenience to school-going children, patients, pregnant women and general public.
“Further, this is a hilly terrain and the public cannot use any other passage except the one under use for a long time. The residents of these two hamlets had been using this pathway regularly without any restriction till 2007.
“The present owners of the Estate recently put numerous conditions and restrictions on the residents for the use of this road. It is the duty of the district administration and government to provide access to the 179 families living in Kamraj Nagar and Anna Nagar of Kodanadu Village Panchayat.
Hence invoking Section 17(2) of the Land Acquisition Act 1994 is just and necessary to acquire the required lands of Kodanadu Estate in Kothagir Taluk, ” the affidavit stated.