The Orissa High Court on Tuesday quashed the process of land acquisition for Vedanta University in Puri and directed the government to return the acquired land to its owners, a lawyer said. The division bench of Chief Justice V Gopal Gouda and Justice B P Das delivered their verdict in response to eight petitions, said Subir Palit, one of the lawyers for the petitioners.
“The court declared that the land acquisition notification for Vedanta University project is illegal and void. The court quashed the notification,” Palit said.
He said that the government had been directed to return the land to its owners.
The Anil Agarwal Foundation, promoted by NRI industrialist and chairman of Britain’s Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal, was setting up the multi-disciplinary Vedanta University near the Konark-Puri marine drive.
The university was to come up in over 6,000 acres with a phased investment of Rs.150 billion ($3.5 billion). But the project faces considerable opposition from local residents.
Some people who lost their land had sought the intervention of the court describing land acquisition for the project as illegal.
“We have been opposing land acquisition since the beginning because it was illegal. Now the court has came to the rescue of people. The judgment is historical,” Umaballav Ratha, one of the petitioners, said.
No one from the Anil Agarwal Foundation or the state government was available for comment.
The union environment ministry had earlier refused clearance to Vedanta’s mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri hills.
How can land acquisition be carried out in a manner that denies the original owner the right of way to his remaining land? The question was raised by the Gujarat High Court, which has served notice on Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) in connection with a National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) project.
Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice K.M. Thaker Wednesday sent a notice to L&T, an engineering and construction major, after allowing petitioner Subhashchandra Ghodasara to implead it as a respondent and asked the NHAI why the court should not allow the appeal.
“How can you acquire land in such manner which deprives someone of his rights?” the bench questioned NHAI. According to the case details, NHAI has acquired 11,000 sq m of the 14,000 sq m of land belonging to the petitioner on the Baroda-Bharuch highway in Gujarat.
NHAI has plans to make a rest house with all public utilities on the highway between Baroda and Bharuch. L&T has been given the project work on contract. Following land acquisition, the petitioner was left with 3,000 sq m of land surrounded by NHAI’s land with no approach road to reach his property, counsel for the petitioner S.K. Patel submitted in court.
NHAI project manager Chandan Kumar Sinha accepted the contention and admitted there was no approach road at present through which the appellant can approach his property. However, counsel for NHAI contended that the project work has been contracted out to L&T and it alone would be competent to answer the queries.
After the submissions of parties, the court allowed the petitioner to join L&T as party to the case and issued notice to the company. The court also asked the respondents why it should not direct them to construct an approach road. The matter is slated to come up for hearing Nov 24.