Mumbai: The Bombay High Court rapped the Maharashtra government for its lackadaisical attitude towards releasing compensation to farmers whose lands were acquired for public projects. It observed that granting farmers compensation out of pity was 'disrespectful not just to them but also to humanity in general.'
A division bench of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and YG Khobragade of the Aurangabad bench of the HC directed the revenue department of the state to clear the dues of over 40 petitioner farmers within 45 days.
Interest to be cut from salaries of officers if delays persist
The bench has clarified that if the government fails to implement its resolution, the interest component will be paid from the salaries of officers responsible for the delay in payments.
The HC was hearing a batch of petitions filed by farmers raising a grievance that they had not been compensated for their acquired lands. They had settled for a compensation amount in Lok Adalat 2019.
The bench remarked that it would be failing in its duty if it did not consider the plight of the farmers who have a legal right to get compensation.
'It is their legal right to get compensation, and for a person vested with a legal right, the demand for justice goes hand in hand. Those who have a legal right ought not to be made to beg for justice; rather, it is their right to demand justice," the bench noted.
Judges say government was not sensitised to issue
The judges expressed displeasure at the fact that the government was not sensitised to the issue despite various orders of the HC in similar cases.
It said: "If insensitivity is to be blinked at by this court, we are afraid that the rule of law will not prevail, and it would not only be a travesty of justice but also result in miscarriage of justice."
On July 26, 2021, the government passed a resolution to compensate farmers who had entered into settlement awards at Lok Adalats for the acquisition of their lands.
Some of the farmers said that awards of 2019 had also not been implemented.
The judges said it was shocking that the authorities had scant regard for the binding orders passed in Lok Adalats and for the financial condition of farmers who lost their lands.
'When a fundamental right of a farmer to cultivate his land, being a part of the right to livelihood, is taken away, he ought to be compensated. A farmer's life is a tale of continuous experiment and struggle for existence. Mere words or visuals can never convey what it means to live a life as an Indian farmer unless one experiences their struggle and their miseries,' the court remarked in a detailed order.
The petitioner farmers urged the court to consider the plight of other farmers who couldn’t approach the court due to financial constraints.
The bench agreed and said it would be failing in its duty if the plight of the other identically placed farmers is not considered.
Judges not convinced with govt's arguments
The judges were not convinced by the government's arguments that it was trying its best to collect funds.
"A mirage is created to hold out assurances to the farmers that their payments would be made. This is merely an illusion. Such conduct of authorities, if ignored, would cause starvation and penury, practically leading to tremendous unrest amongst such farmers," the bench averred.
The court has asked the government to ensure compensation is awarded within 90 days to all the farmers who had entered into settlements in Lok Adalats from 2017.
Besides, it has asked to strictly implement the 2021 resolution and compensate farmers within 180 days who entered into settlements in Lok Adalat.