Noida Extn: HC refers case to larger bench

Noida Extn: HC refers case to larger bench Allahabad: Referring the petitions challenging the land acquisition in Noida and Greater Noida to a larger bench, the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday said UP government will have to answer why it has been repeatedly invoking the urgency clause when it has taken years to start work in the area.

A bench comprising justices Amitava Lala and Ashok Srivastava also gave an option to farmers to reach an out-of-court settlement with authorities by August 12 while hearing petitions of hundreds of residents of nearly a dozen villages of Gautam Buddh Nagar, who had challenged acquisition of more than 3,000 hectares of land by the state government.

"We observe that the state government has repeatedly invoked the urgency clause for acquiring land in the area.

The court would like to know what has been its justification behind doing so."

The court also wondered "why does the state government take months, sometimes even years, to start development work on land acquired by it with the plea that the requirement is urgent and hence owners can not be given an opportunity to raise their objections".

Moreover, the court also questioned "acquisition of farmers' land for the purpose of industrial development and thereafter changing the nature of land itself by handing it over to builders involved in construction of residential complexes.

"The state government will have to give satisfactory replies on these two points when the matter comes up before the larger bench," the court said.

The Division Bench, while fixing August 17 as the next date of hearing, referred all the petitions to the Chief Justice with the request that a larger bench be constituted for deciding the matter.

The court refrained from passing any order on the applications of investors, who had moved the court under the banner of "Noida Extension Flat Buyers' Welfare Association", as well as builders, all of whom had made a request for being made parties in the case.

The court said that those petitioners who wished to approach the concerned authorities with their grievances and reach an out-of-court settlement could do so by August 12.

However, the court said that those who choose to arrive at any agreement with the authorities during this period would have to inform the court about the same on the next date of hearing with full details about the relief that they have agreed to, be it higher compensation or return of the acquired land.

Earlier in the day, another division bench had recused itself from hearing a petition filed by farmers of Deola village in Gautam Buddh Nagar district, who had moved the court challenging acquisition of 107 hectares of land belonging to them.

The bench comprising justices RK Agrawal Sunil Hali had released the matter from its jurisdiction and referred the matter to the Chief Justice with the request that the petitions be placed before an "appropriate" bench.

All the petitions are now likely to be heard together by a larger bench of the court on August 17.

The fate of thousands of people, who have invested in housing projects in the Noida Extension area, as well as over a dozen real estate developers also hinges on the court verdict.

Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) said it will launch fresh negotiations with farmers and was hopeful of getting their approval.

"We will hold negotiations with farmers. They will be given the benefit of new rehabilitation policy. We hope to get the farmers' approval," said Rama Raman, Chief Executive Officer of GNIDA.

The decision of the High Court to refer all petitions to a larger bench, however, left the farmers disappointed, who said they will agree on nothing less than the "market price" for their land.

Noida Chairman Balwinder Kumar, however said it was "practically not possible" to meet the key demand of hike in compensation.

"There is no possibility of increase in compensation for land which has already been taken. If authority gives the hike to one village then the others too will demand. There will be no acceptable cut off date for such a hike. This is practically not possible," Kumar said after meeting farmers in Shahdra village at Sector 41 in Noida.

Today's hearing commenced with a number of farmers from Patwari village seeking relief in the light of a July 19 court order whereby acquisition of 589 hectares of land in the same village had been quashed.

The petitioners had contended that since an order had already been passed in favour of other farmers from their village who had moved the court earlier, they too be granted similar relief as their land had been acquired by the state government in a similar fashion.

The farmers' plea was opposed by builders involved in housing projects in Noida Extension area, who contended that orders quashing the land acquisitions were affecting them as well as those who had invested their earnings, without any fault on their part.

The builders' submission was strongly opposed by the farmers who submitted that in the course of hearing on the petitions relating to Patwari, the state government had "deliberately concealed the fact from the court that the acquired land has been given away to builders, and therefore the builders must not be given any benefit of doubt".

The court said both the farmers as well as the builders could place their grievances before the larger bench constituted by the Chief Justice for hearing matters relating to land acquisitions in Noida and Greater Noida.

The court also told the builders that they could, if they wished, move the Supreme Court with their grievances regarding the High Court order of July 19.

Acquisition of more than 3000 hectares of land, spread across nearly a dozen villages, has been challenged by the petitioners who have alleged that their land was acquired by the state government by invoking "urgency clause" which had deprived them of an opportunity to raise objections as well as to bargain for a better compensation.