Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has stayed the effect of a government resolution (GR) empowering the state government to cancel punitive proceedings initiated against contractors working on the Samruddhi Mahamarg over alleged illegal excavation of minor minerals.
A division bench of Justices Rohit B Deo and Anil L Pansare, on July 26, stayed the GR issued by the government in January 2023 while hearing a petition filed by Cozy Properties, a construction company whose portion of 1,000 acres of land was acquired by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the construction of a four-lane national highway and by state government for Samruddhi Expressway.
Cozy Properties files plea
Its plea alleged that Afcons Infrastructures Limited, a contractor engaged in construction work of Samruddhi Expressway, illegally trespassed into its land and excavated soil/murrum (mineral-rich soil) from more than 100 acres of land. Cozy then lodged a complaint with Seloo police station on July 30, 2019, based on which an FIR was filed. Proceedings were initiated against the parties concerned and chargesheet was filed.
Meanwhile, a local tehsildar (revenue office) also initiated action against the same contractor and issued a show-cause notice to its proprietors. The tehsildar eventually imposed a fine of ₹226,89,60,900 and additional royalty of ₹238,99,72,148. This was stayed by the High Court in a petition filed by the contractor in 2020. Thereafter, the state government issued its government resolution in 2023.
Afcons sought quashing of FIR
Following the GR, Afcons sought quashing of the FIR. Cozy Properties approached the HC contending that the GR violates the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code and was mala fide. Further it said that the proceedings against the contractor cannot be cancelled.
The petitioner’s advocate argued that the GR was issued only to benefit certain business tycoons who were facing several hundreds of crores worth of penalties. The court issued notice to the respondents and stayed the GR till the petition is finally heard. It noted that an “exceptional prima facie case was made out” and stayed the