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Setback to Telangana government as HC bars land acquisition under GO 123

The Hyderabad High Court on Thursday declared that the Telangana Government shall henceforth, not purchase lands under G.O.Ms.No.123 dated 30.07.2015 for the public purpose of construction of irrigation projects.

The bench took note of the fact that marginalised sections of the society, who are dependent upon these lands are denied any benefit unlike the scheme under the new Land Acquisition Act of 2013.

These interim orders were passed by a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice U. Durga Prasada Rao in a batch of writ petitions. The lengthy judgment of 80 pages was delivered in cases filed by farmers, artisans, agricultural labourers affected due to land acquisition by the Telangana Government for irrigation projects. This GO 123 enables the farmers to sell lands voluntarily. The Government claims that willing farmers will get more money than they would have got under new Land Acquisition Act of 2013. Initially, Tukamma and other poor farm labour of Medak district filed writ petition contending that the lands in their village were being taken away under GO 123 from willing farmers but no one was talking about their plight. The lands are being acquired for establishment of National Industrial Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ). Justice Suresk Kumar Kait, sitting single judge set aside the GO declaring that the benefits given to landless poor artisans, labourers under the 2013 Act were taken away by this GO . The government carried the matter in appeal.

The bench stayed the order of single judge, adding a rider that Government shall give all the benefits to the poor landless labourers as they would have got under the 2013 Act. The Government agreed to that and issued some GOs. The bench said until the Government satisfied the court that the rehabilitation was done, lands bought under Go 123 shall not be taken possession of. While arguments were under way, hundreds of villagers affected by GO 123 invoked for acquisition of lands for Mallannasagar and other irrigation projects approached the court and filed writ petitions. The arguments were heard at length and on Thursday the interim orders were passed.

The bench speaking through the Acting Chief Justice said this GO could be applied for voluntary purchase of land by the State from willing land owners. However, if the lands are sought to be taken for irrigation projects, it affects the poor people of the village. It said that “as the 2013 Act confers certain rights and extends several benefits to the affected families (other than land owners also), clause (b) of the proviso to Article 298 of the Constitution disables the State Government from applying G.O. Ms. No 123 dated 30.07.2015 to voluntarily purchase lands for irrigation projects as it would deny the marginalised sections of the society of the rights conferred on them by the 2013 Act.”

Article 298 of Constitution empowers the State to carry on trade. The schedules to 2013 Act provide rehabilitation measures to be taken when lands are acquired. The labourers and the landless poor like artisans are given the status of affected families and they are entitled for rehabilitation. The court concluded by saying that “It is made clear that this Order shall not preclude the respondents from acquiring lands under the 2013 Act on complying with the conditions stipulated therein for rehabilitation and resettlement of all the affected families, other than those land owners whose lands have already been purchased by the State under G.O.Ms. No.123 dated 30.07.2015”

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