PM’s dream- bullet project lands in legal trouble

Gujarat Global News Network, Ahmedabad

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project Bullet train project has landed in legal trouble. The land acquisition process has been challenged in the Gujarat high court by farmers from Surat district. They have alleged that the process is not being done as per amended laws.

They have objected to the notification of the state government to acquire land for the high-speed rail project. The landowners have questioned the validity of the notification. The petitioners contended that the notification issued by Gujarat government should be quashed and the Centre should be asked to start the process afresh.

A bench headed by the chief justice has asked the state government to show whether it is the competent authority to acquire land for the bullet train project.

In the petition the farmers have submitted that the 508-km Ahmedabad to Mumbai bullet train project is being implemented by a central agency – National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL). The Gujarat government has issued notification for land acquisition, though the implementing agency is the central government.

The petitioners have questioned the state government’s power to acquire land for the Centre’s project in absence of any delegation of powers from the central government. Another aspect of the notification that has been challenged is the alleged bypassing of the land acquisition process in the 2013 amended laws, in which the consent of the project affected people is required to be obtained through a properly laid down procedure.

If the Centre is the implementing authority, the government has to undertake social impact assessment and offer a rehabilitation and resettlement project before initiating the land acquisition. The provisions of the land acquisition laws of 2013 are absent in the notification, and hence it is required to be quashed, the petitioners have contended.

The third objection raised against the acquisition process is the compensation amount that has been proposed in the notification, is according to jantri or ready reckoner of 2011. The Centre’s amended land acquisition laws stipulate compensation after upgrading and revising the market price of land. The petitioners submitted that the jantri rates have not been fixed after 2011.

After preliminary hearing, the bench headed by Chief Justice R S Reddy commented, “The sole objective of the new act is to provide the best market price to farmers from whom you (the government) are to acquire the land and therefore you have to upgrade and revise the jantri.” The HC has posted further hearing on the subject on Monday.

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