The Orissa High Court has withheld the salaries of Angul District Collector and two more officials for failing to ensure payment of compensation to 188 villagers whose land was acquired for an irrigation project 61 years ago. The villagers, however, continued to pay revenue for the acres of land that went under water due to the project.
Expressing strong displeasure, a Division Bench of Justices B. R. Sarangi and B.P. Satpathy recently said that the release of salaries of the officers would be considered by the court only after the payment of compensation to the villagers.
Land to the extent of 62.21 acres in Tetuloigogopinathpur, Kunjabiharipur, Kukurpeta, Nuamouza and Kukurpeta Junlge villages were acquired for the Kukurpeta Minor Irrigation Project (KMIP) in 1961. However, the villagers were not given the compensation amount that they were promised. They moved the High Court in 2013.
On October 4, 2021, a Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and B. P. Routray expressed surprise, saying, “It appears to be an untenable position that land revenue is still being collected from the petitioners (villagers) despite their lands being submerged.”
The Bench ordered Chhendipada tahsildar to present status of compensation which was supposed to be paid to the people who lost their land
On the next date of hearing on November 1, when the tahsildar admitted that the land in question was submerged, but the tenants were still paying land revenue, the High Court said, “This court considers it to be an unacceptable position in law that these 188 villagers in five villages have, despite losing their lands for the KMIP, stand not only deprived of the land in question but compensation as well only because no notification in that regard has been issued.”
Chief Justice Muralidhar and Justice Routray directed the State government to stop collecting land rent for the submerged land.
“Steps be immediately taken by the Principal Secretary, Water Resources Department, Odisha Government to start the process of land acquisition under the current legislation, (2013 Act) and have the compensation determined and paid in terms thereof to each of the villager subject to verification of the particulars and their establishing that they are the recorded tenants in respect of the lands in question,” they ordered. The exercise was directed to be completed within a period of 12 weeks.
On January 6, 2023, the Bench of Justice Sarangi and Justice Satpathy ordered the personal appearance of Angul District collector on finding that compensation had not yet be paid.
“Since the compensation amount has not been paid to the petitioners till date, even though the writ petition was filed in the year 2013 and in the meantime more than 10 years have passed, and that the lands were acquired in the year 1961 and in the meantime more than 60 years have passed, this court directs that till payment of compensation to the petitioners is made for the land acquired by the State Government, the salary of Collector and District Magistrate, Angul, Land Acquisition Officer, Angul and Chief Development Officer-cum-Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad, Angul shall not be released in their favour,” the court ordered.