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Urgent acquisition of land only in exceptional case: SC

The Supreme Court has ruled that government cannot acquire lands of the people by invoking the "urgency clause" as a matter of rule for developing housing colonies and the power can be exercised only in exceptional cases.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ruled that
government cannot acquire lands of the people by invoking the
"urgency clause" as a matter of rule for developing housing
colonies and the power can be exercised only in exceptional
cases.

"Use of the power by the government under Section 17 for
planned development of the city or the development of
residential area or for housing must not be as a rule but by
way of an exception.

"Such exceptional situation may be for public purpose
viz., rehabilitation of natural calamity-affected persons,
rehabilitation of persons uprooted due to commissioning of dam
or housing for lower strata of society urgently,
rehabilitation of persons affected by time-bound projects,
etc," a Bench of Jutices R V Raveendra and R M Lodha said in a
judgement.

The apex court passed the judgement while dealing with a
bunch of appeals filed by aggrieved land owners challenging
the acquisition of over 400 private lands by Gorakhpur Land
Development Authority, Uttar Pradesh, for constructing a
housing colony.

Under the Land Acquisition Act, the government can acquire
any land but section 5A mandates the authority to give due
opportunity to the owners to raise objections.

Section 17, however, gives the government the need to
dispense with Section 5A if the land was required for some
very urgent reasons.

In this case, though GDA identified the land in 2000,
it chose to invoke the urgency clause in 2004 to acquire the
land.

Writing the judgement, Justice Lodha said "the question
is whether in all cases of planned development of the city or
for the development of a residential area, the power of
urgency may be invoked by the government and even where such
power is invoked, should the enquiry contemplated under
Section 5A be dispensed with invariably.

"We do not think so. Whether planned development of
city or development of residential area cannot brook delay of
a few months to complete the enquiry under Section 5A? In our
opinion, ordinarily it can."

According to the apex court, use of the power of urgency
in a routine manner depriving the owner or person interested a
very valuable right under Section 5A may not meet the
statutory test nor could be readily sustained.

"The government has to apply its mind on the aspect that
urgency is of such nature that necessitates dispensation of
enquiry under Section 5A," the Bench said.

In the present case, the apex court, however, said it
cannot grant any relief since the government had already made
constructions in most of the plots spending a huge amount.

PTI

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