Farmers opposing land acquisition for the Bullet Train project filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court on December 16. As many as 50 SLPs were filed representing about 2,500 farmers challenging the Gujarat High Court’s verdict that dismissed their pleas against the process of acquiring the land for the project.
“The High Court of Gujarat had dismissed the writ petitions filed by farmers against the initiation of land acquisition process for the Bullet Train project in complete violation of the scheme of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 and in violation of the fundamental rights of the affected landowners of September 19, 2019. These farmers of South Gujarat from amongst 192 affected villages will now knock the doors of Supreme Court,” Anand Yagnik, the advocate representing the farmers said in a statement.
“The SLP will challenge the non-revision and updating of Jantri rates (market value) before initiation of land acquisition for the project and also the dilution of the central act so as to deprive the affected of farmers of fair and adequate compensation and of the entitlements envisaged under the Relief and Rehabilitation scheme under the Act,” added Yagnik.
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Earlier, the Gujarat High Court had dismissed a set of 59 petitions moved by farmers against the land acquisition for the Ahmedabad -Mumbai Bullet Train project. In their petitions, the farmers had challenged the land acquisition process adopted by the Gujarat government and also demanded four times the prevailing market rates as compensation for the land.
A division bench of Justices Anand Dave and Biren Vaishnav had pronounced the judgement upholding the land acquisition process by the Gujarat government. The bench had also kept the issue of compensation open, in order to give the farmers the liberty to approach the government at an appropriate time.
Additionally, the court had upheld the validity of the amendment of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. The 2013 Act was proposed by Gujarat government and approved by the President in 2016.
The High Court bench had justified the State’s move to not implement the mandatory provisions of conducting Social Impact Assessment adding that the Social Impact Assessment process carried out under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) guidelines were appropriate and satisfactory.
Gujarat Amendment of Land Acquisition Act 2013
In March 2016, the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by then CM Anandiben Patel passed a bill in Gujarat Assembly amending the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act that was later approved by the President.
Also read: Gujarat Farmers Gear Up to Fight Against Bullet Train Land Grab in Supreme Court
The central act states that without prior consent of at least 80% of the farmers or landowners who are going to be affected in a project, land cannot be acquired. However, the act also provides that state government can amend the legislation in its state but only for the purpose of adding value and providing more benefits for land acquisition than already provided by the central legislation.
Noticeably, the bill was passed in the Assembly in absence of the opposition Congress MLAs who were on suspension for two days.
One of the key provisions of the amendment was doing away with social impact assessment and rehabilitation and resettlement for projects related to defence and social sectors such as building air base, roads, canals, railways affordable houses etc. The amended act also did away with social impact assessment for land to be acquired for industrial corridors.
The Gujarat amendment also snatched away the consent clauses put in by the UPA government in the central act.