The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Orissa government to maintain status quo on acquisition of about 6,000 acres of land for the proposed Vedanta University in Puri city.

A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain and H.L. Dattu, admitting a batch of appeals from the Anil Agarwal Foundation, the State government and others, said status quo on the nature, character and possession of land should be maintained. After hearing senior counsel Anil Divan, K.K. Venugopal, Prashant Bhushan, Jayant Das and Sunil Mathews, it issued notice to the parties and directed that hearing on the appeals be expedited.

The special leave petitions were directed against an Orissa High Court judgment holding illegal the land acquisition procedures.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation, in its SLP which was supported by Orissa, said that out of about 5,600 acres, acquisition of 3,400 acres had been completed, possession given and award amounts disbursed. Already 3,626 persons had received the compensation. So, setting aside the acquisition at this stage and directing recovery of monies from those whose land had been acquired would lead to manifest injustice to those who had accepted the compensation.

The public interest litigation petitions were filed in the High Court after the compensation awards had been passed, the amounts paid and possession delivered, the SLPs said. As part of the rehabilitation process, the Foundation would follow the State government policy and provide a colony to the displaced families, metal roads, water supply and other facilities.

The Foundation, seeking to quash the judgment, denied that it had made a misrepresentation for acquiring the land. In a cross-SLP, it was submitted that the proposed university project would cause an extreme debilitating impact on the eco-system as well as local bio-diversity.

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