Pulling up officials for keeping a matter relating to land acquisition for a Harijan welfare scheme pending for years, the Madras High Court has said if the Tamil Nadu Government's policy is to proceed with the acquisition and if the court has given it liberty, the public authority should proceed further.

Justice V. Dhanapalan made the observation while dismissing a writ petition by two joint owners of a property in Vellore district seeking a direction to the government to consider their representation to re-convey their 0.922 sq. metres of land in Sanankuppam village, Ambur town, Vellore district.

The proceedings to acquire the land of S. Prabhakar and D. Vijayakumar in April 1993 and published in the gazette for the development of Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare houses. Several lands were sought to be acquired.

The petitioners stated that since the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act, 1978 had been enacted for acquiring lands for Harijan welfare, the acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act, a Central law, was illegal. They challenged the proceedings.

The High Court, by an order in April 2001, allowed their plea. However, liberty was granted to the government to proceed with the acquisition afresh.

Following this, the petitioners made several representations to the authorities from 2001 to ascertain the status and requesting them to re-convey the lands. The authorities did not initiate fresh acquisition proceedings or those to re-convey the land.

In 2010, the District Collector, Vellore, sent a communication to the Adi-Dravidar Welfare Commissioner, seeking permission to re-convey the land. There was no movement, thereafter.

Justice Dhanapalan said that records would reveal that the authorities had not taken any steps to initiate fresh proceedings under the State Act. The law was enacted to achieve the Constitutional goal of providing shelter for Adi-Dravidars. The State had envisaged the scheme to acquire the lands for that purpose.

If that was the State's policy and if the court had given it liberty, it was incumbent on the public authority to proceed further. But, the officials misconstrued the court order and the ratio laid down in it was not properly understood by them to proceed with the matter afresh, when it was for a public purpose.

“The State authorities cannot act against the public purpose and keep the matter pending for years together.” The Judge said he was not inclined to accept the petitioners' plea seeking re-conveyance of their land.

Citing the State Act's objective, Mr. Justice Dhanapalan said to have a special attention to this case and to see that it was disposed of early involving the Act, it was for the State to take appropriate measures.