J. Venkatesan

Mumbai SEZ was to come up on 10,000 hectares

Consent awards must be passed before June 8, 2009

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to stay the land acquisition proceedings in respect of the Mumbai SEZ Ltd., promoted by Mukesh Ambani.

The company had pleaded for stay of the acquisition process on the ground that the compensation award for the farmers had not been passed within the stipulated period of two years from the date of notification of the acquisition, namely, June 8, 2007.

A vacation Bench of Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice Aftab Alam dismissed a special leave petition filed by Mumbai SEZ and Dilipkumar Vitthaldas Dherai against an interim order of the Bombay High Court that refused to stay the process of land acquisition. The Bench in a brief order said “we are not inclined to grant any relief.”

Mr. Bhushan sought the stay on the land acquisition proceedings initiated by notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act on the ground that if the acquisition was not completed by June 8, the entire process would lapse.

Compensation

Mr. Rao said the company had deposited Rs. 110 crore with the State government towards compensation to be paid to the farmers and “we want the court to protect the interests of both sides.”

Senior counsel Rakesh Diwedi, represented the farmers and senior counsel K. V. Viswanathan appeared for the intervening non-consenting farmers. Counsel for Maharashtra submitted that interested persons were not coming forward to the court.

The MSEZ, which was to come up in 10,000 hectares at an investment of about Rs. 40,000 crore, filed a writ petition before the High Court for a direction to the State government to complete the land acquisition process and notify the compensation award for the farmers. The High Court refused to grant relief and the present SLP is directed against that order dated May 22.

In their SLP, Mumbai SEZ and Dilipkumar Vitthaldas Dherai submitted that the High Court failed to appreciate that the District Collector was duty-bound to pass a consent award within two years of the land acquisition notification dated June 8, 2007, after declaration under Sec. 6 of the Land Acquisition Act in all those cases where land owners had voluntarily consented for sale of their lands and entered into sale agreements.

The consent awards must be passed before June 8, 2009, if not, the entire acquisition proceedings would lapse causing grave financial loss to the petitioners who had already invested Rs. 600 crore in the project.