Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train: Bombay High Court refuses to stay land acquisition proceedings

Mumbai: In a setback for the Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing company limited, the Bombay High Court refused to grant any stay on the land acquisition process initiated by the Maharashtra government for the bullet train project, which is expected to connect Mumbai-Ahmedabad on a fast corridor.

The company has raised an objection to the government decision to exempt the bullet train project from the social impact assessment.

As per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, any project purported to have ‘public interest’ would have to undergo a social impact assessment.

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By virtue of this assessment, the authorities undertake to ascertain if the project serves a public purpose, the estimation of affected families and the ones to be displaced, the extent of the land parcel that will be affected by the proposed acquisition. It also provides a thorough assessment if an alternate site or land is feasible for the project etc.

Apart from this, the company has also challenged the notification of the Union government by which it has delegated the powers to the state government to execute and proceed with everything that is required for acquiring land for such projects.

Further, the company has challenged the validity of sections 10 and 11 of the land acquisition act of 2013, which grants special powers to the state and mandates publishing of a preliminary notification pertaining to the acquisition, respectively.

Accordingly, the company has petitioned the bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Anuja Prabhudesai challenging the notifications and the constitutional validities of the provisions of the acquisition law. It also urged the bench to stay the land acquisition for the project until the petitions are decided.

The bench last heard the petition in December 2019 wherein it heard the arguments advanced by senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for Godrej and Anil Singh, the additional solicitor general (ASG) appearing for the National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC).

During the course of the arguments, Seervai said the government has no powers to issue such notifications, while ASG Singh countered the submissions.

The ASG also apprised the bench of the fact that a similar contention was raised before the Gujarat High Court, which upheld the constitutional validities of the provisions of the act granting special powers to the state government.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Sayed in his orders, said, “In the facts and circumstances of the case, we are not inclined to grant any ad-interim relief as sought.”