In a setback for the state government, the Bombay high court has quashed the government corrigendum of September 2018, which did not consider ready reckoner rates to pay compensation for land acquisition for the Mumbai-Nagpur Express Highway Project, popularly known as the Samruddhi Mahamarg.
A division bench of Justices S V Gangapurwala and Vinay Joshi last month quashed the corrigendum observing: “… the corrigendum dated 11th September, 2018, deviates from the provisions of said statute and rules governing the principle for determination of compensation of the amount. Such executive instructions contrary to the provision of the statute, rules cannot be sustained. The same would be beyond the purview of the powers conferred on an executive under Article 162 of Constitution of India.”
The order copy was recently made available.
The HC was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by landowners whose land was acquired for the project but were not granted compensation as per the ready reckoner rates.
A government resolution was issued in August 2018, by which it was decided to consider the ready reckoner as per the Maharashtra Stamp Act, 1958, for the purpose of determining the market value of the land. However, a corrigendum was issued in September 2018, by which separate compensation rates were decided for the land acquisition for the project.
The petitioners challenged this before the HC, contending that the government could not differentiate between projects while determining the compensation amount, as the same would be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Also, the government could not determine the quantum of compensation for projects applying different policies. The same also would not be in consonance with the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, argued their counsel.
However, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted that the guidelines are provided for determination of the ready reckoner rates under the Indian Stamp Act. In case the petitioners are aggrieved by the award, they could challenge the same before the executive.
Kumbhakoni further contended that 83 per cent of acquisition has been completed by private purchase and compensation paid.
The land acquisition has been made for the project under the provisions of the Maharashtra Highway Act and certain provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation Act, which provides that the Collector shall adopt the following criteria in assessing and determining the market value of the land – the market value, if any, specified in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, for the registration of the sale deeds or agreements to sell, as the case may be, in the area where the land is situated.
Disagreeing with the government’s contentions, the HC said that while the August 2018 circular appeared to be in consonance with the provision of statute and rules, the same was not the case with the September 2018 corrigendum.
While quashing the corrigendum, the HC said that the petitioners have remedy to challenge the award before the appropriate forum in accordance with law and as may be permissible.