High Court asks: Is IAF protecting its land on Yamuna banks from sand mining

The Delhi High Court today asked the Centre whether the Indian Air Force (IAF) was protecting its land on the banks of the Yamuna, where the Tilpat station of Western Air Command is located, from illegal sand mining.

The query was posed by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar while issuing notice to the Ministry of Defence and IAF on a PIL seeking a CBI probe into alleged collusion by officials of the local authorities and the air force with the sand mafia.

The court said it will decide whether to order a CBI probe after seeing what the IAF has done to protect its land. “We will ensure that IAF protects its land,” the bench said.

Central government standing counsel Anurag Aluwahlia said that 90 per cent of a wall around the site has been completed.

The court was hearing a plea filed by a man, claiming to be a whistle blower, alleging that illegal sand mining was going on at defence land located at the Tilpat Ranges 1 and 2 on the banks of Yamuna in Faridabad (Haryana) and Noida, which falls in the Gautam Budh Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh.

The petitioner has said he had made representations to various authorities including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had forwarded it to the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Air Force. He has claimed that the illegal activities have caused a loss of over Rs 29 crore to the exchequer.

The plea has also sought a direction to the CBI to enquire into the serious offences of corrupt practices in compliance with a letter issued by the Prime Minister’s Office in October 2016.

According to the petition, the whistleblower had earlier filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal against the illegal mining activities of sand mafias on the defence land and the tribunal had in 2013 prohibited mining activity which was being carried out in Faridabad.

The man had earlier approached the high court seeking his relocation to the national capital from Haryana where he was allegedly facing threat to his life for raising the issue of illegal sand mining.

SC green signal to Vishnugad Hydroelectric project

Tehri Hydro Development Corporation has got green signal by the Supreme Court of India to go ahead with its hydroelectric project over river Alaknanda in Uttarakhand while dismissing a plea against it.

A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu expressed concern that petitions are being filed in courts to delay such projects despite the fact that everybody wants electricity.

The court dismissed the plea of an environmentalist Vimal Bahi who had appraoched it after the green tribunal rejected.

“I ask myself this question… Everbody wants ‘bijli’ but opposes a hydroelectric project, nuclear plants project,” According to the bench.

“Either one petition or PIL is filed against such projects and as a result, they get delayed and by the time the projects take off .. The project cost of Rs 1,000 crore becomes Rs 10,000 crore and ultimately, the taxpayers’ money goes waste,” According to it.

Vishnugad Hydroelectric project is a scheme involving the construction of a 65-meter high diversion dam across Alaknanda near village Helong in district Chamoli. This project is being developed by Tehri Hydro Development Corporation.

The petitioner alleged the land requirement of the project is 120 Ha, out of which about 40 Ha is agricultural land and 80 Ha is government forest land.

He alleged no proper cumulative impact assessment has been done with respect to the project and very critical indicators such as loss of agricultural land, river bed land, village infrastructure and geological settings have not even been considered.

He also submitted that cost benefit analysis has not been done by the authorities.

Land acquisition for Vedanta University quashed

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.

Lok Sabha speaker pitches for land to tillers

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar Wednesday said that the ‘revolutionary’ target of land to the tillers should be pursued honestly to sustain the interests of farm labourers and increase the agricultural productivity of India.

‘Agricultural labourer is the real farmer. With their hard work, we are able to grow crops but they do not have lands. ‘Land to the tillers’ revolutionary target should not fade away. This should be achieved honestly. We should continue to make honest efforts to achieve it,’ Meira Kumar said.

She was addressing the centenary celebration and sixth convocation of Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences in Allahabad.

The speaker stressed said that if no steps are taken for the betterment of landless farmers and agricultural workers, ‘their interest in agriculture will decrease and our dream to double agricultural production will not be realised’.

Meira Kumar said India’s agricultural scientists and technologists need to work in the direction of doubling the productivity of arable land.

‘The type of technology needed for good productivity of food grain is plant biotechnology. This technology has tremendous potential to enhance agriculture yield by using seeds that are automatically resistant to pests and other abiotic stress such as drought and salinity,’ she emphasised.

Underlining the need for networking research, the speaker said that there has to be a link among different development partners, the users, the implementers and the experts of new agricultural technology for achieving effective and multi-dimensional success.

L&T gets notice in NHAI land acquisition case

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.

VHP not ready to give away any part of Ayodhya land

Rejecting the Ayodhya verdict of the Allahabad High Court, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Wednesday demanded not only the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot where the Babri Masjid once stood, but also the over 67 acres of land nearby acquired by the central government.

‘We are not ready to part with any bit of land in or around the disputed Ayodhya land, where we wish to erect a grand temple to mark the birthplace of Lord Ram,’ VHP supremo Ashok Singhal said at a press conference here Wednesday afternoon.

He also ruled out the possibility of allowing construction of a mosque in any corner of the entire acquired land. ‘If Muslims wish to build a mosque, let them do it outside the limits of the acquired land,’ Singhal said.

He was speaking after a day-long meeting of the VHP’s central committee of seers, who debated the court verdict.

A three-judge special bench of the high court had ordered division of the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot of land where the Babri Masjid once stood into three equal parts – one to Ram Lalla, one to Hindu sect Nirmohi Akhara and one to the Sunni Central Waqf Board.

Claiming that 45 acres of the acquired land actually belonged to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas (trust), Singhal said: ‘I see no reason why the central government cannot make a smooth transfer of the 45 acres of acquired land back to its original owner, that was the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.’

He said the remaining acquired land too could be formally given to the Nyas for construction of the proposed Ram temple.

Singhal proposed to lead a delegation of Hindu seers to Prime minister Manmohan Singh with a formal request in this regard.

‘I will take a delegation to the prime minister and urge him to hand over the entire 70 acres acquired by the central government way back in the 1990s (after the demolition of the mosque),’ he said.

The VHP was not a direct party to the court case, but chose to throw its weight behind the deity Ram Lalla, a party to the Ayodhya title suit, to whom the court gave one-third of the disputed land.

‘We will urge the deity of Ram (represented by a friend) to file an appeal against the high court order, that had given away one-third of the property to Muslims,’ he said.

‘There was no dispute about the fact that entire Ayodhya was owned by (mythological king) Raja Dashrath, the father of Ram, and the birthplace of Ram was a part of the raja’s palace, so there was no question of parting with any piece of land in that area,’ Singhal said.

He said there seemed no possibility of any out-of-court settlement on the issue unless Muslims completely give up their claim to any portion of the land.

When his attention was drawn to the dispute that the VHP was running even with the Nirmohi Akhara, a rival Hindu party in the case which has been entrusted with one-third of the disputed property, Singhal said: ‘Now that the high court has given the main part of the disputed land to Lord Ram’s deity, it is by implication that the entire land would belong to him.’

However, Jagadguru Madhavacharya, the head of the Udupi peeth in Karnataka, who was also accompanying Singhal, said: ‘We will try and make the Nirmohi Akhara understand that after all we were both fighting for a common cause and our ultimate goal was to see a grand Ram temple come up at the birthplace of the lord.’

Asked about the possibility of a compromise formula, Singhal said: ‘We are not against compromise, but as far as we are concerned we do not have any such formula to offer on our own.’

‘However, we are open to considering any such formula if it were to be proposed by the other party, provided it were to uphold the dignity of Lord Ram as also the sentiments of millions of Hindus,’ said the VHP chief.

No land deal final until registered, rules apex court

The Supreme Court has held that no land transaction would attain finality unless it was duly registered and no sale deed of land would get a back-dated finality by its registration subsequently.

The court said that a transaction in land would only be complete on the date of the registration of the sale deed.

In its ‘inescapable conclusion’, a bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan said the sale executed between the seller and the buyer in respect of a land ‘could not be termed as a complete sale until the document got registered’. The judgment, delivered Friday, was only made available Thursday.

The apex court set aside the verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had upheld the trial court verdict that a sale deed becomes effective on the date of its execution as its registration relates to the date of its execution. Thus the trial court held that a suit challenging the transaction in land would not invite the doctrine of lis pendens (Latin for suit pending) if it is filed between the execution of sale deed and its registration.

Dismissing the conclusions of the trial court, Justice B.S. Chauhan, speaking for the bench, said that if in the course of the execution of a sale deed and its registration, a suit challenging that transaction has been instituted, then it would attract the doctrine of lis pendens.

The apex court said that section 47 of the Registration Act, 1908, provides that registration would relate back to the date of execution of the sale deed but it would not grant finality to the sale deed retrospectively (from the date of execution of sale deed).

The case was of Mam Chand (now dead) of Asraka Majra village in Haryana’s Rewari district, who mortgaged his 22 kanals (approximately 1.09 hectares) of land to one Har Narain (now dead) for Rs.7,000 in 1970.

Subsequently he sold eight kanals (approximately 0.39 hectares) to Har Narain for Rs.7,500. Mam Chand got Rs.200 as earnest money and the rest was adjusted against the mortgaged land.

However, Mam Chand then sold his land to five people (all respondents in the case) Aug 2, 1971 and this sale deed was registered on Sep 3, 1971. Har Narain filed a suit Aug 10, 1971 seeking to restrain Mam Chand from alienating him from the said lands. This suit was dismissed Sep 4, 1971.

Besides other grounds for dismissing the suit, the trial court had held that the sale deed deemed to have come into force Aug 2 as its registration Sep 3 relates back to the date of the execution of sale.

Thus the trial court held that since the sale deed became effective Aug 2 and the suit by Har Narain was filed on Aug 10, the transaction did not attract the doctrine of lis pendens.

Setting aside the verdict of the high court and the lower courts, the apex court restored the eight kanals of land bought by Har Narain to his legal heirs. The legal heirs of Mam Chand were directed to pay the amount he received for the sale of these lands plus 10 percent interest.

The court said that legal heirs of Mam Chand would be entitled to the rest of the land in the wake of quashing of the sale of the land to five respondents.

Ayodhya verdict: Okay to Ram temple, land to Muslims too

A 125-year-old Hindu-Muslim dispute that repeatedly frayed Indias secular fabric was sought to be settled Thursday with a court ruling that the place where the Babri mosque in Ayodhya stood before it was razed by Hindu mobs in 1992 was indeed the birthplace of Ram revered by millions.

A three-judge bench, comprising a Muslim and two Hindus, of the Allahabad High Courts Lucknow bench ruled by majority that a Ram temple had been destroyed to build the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in the 16th century and so the mosque violated Islamic tenets.

But judges S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma and Sudhir Agarwal ruled that the entire disputed land in Ayodhya, a riverside town in Uttar Pradesh which for decades became synonymous with Hindu-Muslim tensions, should be divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu sect who were among those who fought the court battle.

The status quo, however, would be maintained for the next three months.

Despite the divisive nature of the judgement against which both Hindu and Muslim litigants have vowed to appeal in the Supreme Court, India — whose over one billion population includes 80 percent Hindus and 14 percent Muslims — remained calm. Both Muslim and Hindu leaders said nothing should be done to offend any community.

“The disputed site is (indeed) the birthplace of Lord Ram,” said the brief two-page official synopsis of the judgement. It ruled that the place of Rams birth must also be construed as a juristic person and a deity.

“It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birthplace of Lord Rama as a child,” the majority ruling said.

The other highlights of the eagerly awaited judgement were that idols of Ram were sneaked into the Babri mosque in December 1949 and that archaeological evidence proved that a temple had existed at the mosque site.

The judgement, running into about 10,000 pages, was furiously analysed across India, where tens of thousands of security forces had been deployed to prevent any communal violence.

“The disputed building was constructed by (Mughal emperor) Babar — the year is not certain — but it was built against the tenets of Islam,” the majority judges said. “Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque.”

The verdict sparked calls for Hindu-Muslim amity.

All India Muslim Personal Law Boards Kamal Farooqui said: “There could be a (temple) and a (mosque) existing alongside in Ayodhya in the larger interest of the nation. The court has opened up some consensus for us and a chance for reconciliation.”

Zafaryab Jilani of the Sunni Waqf Board, whose title suit for the Ayodhya land was dismissed by the court, vowed not to “surrender” but added that the board would abide by anything the Supreme Court decides.

Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which played a major role in the mass movement aimed at building a Ram temple at the Babri mosque site, said the ruling should not be seen as a victory or defeat for anyone.

“This has almost cleared the way for building a grand Ram temple,” he said, asking people to forget the bitterness of the past.

The Nirmohi Akhara, one of the three parties allotted a third of the disputed land, hailed the ruling as a “victory for all people who have faith in Lord Ram” but quickly added that it was no defeat or victory for any religion.

Hindu lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ravi Shankar Prasad urged Muslims, Indias largest religious minority, to help in building a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in soon after the verdict was announced, convening a high-level meeting to discuss the way ahead. The central government is the custodian of the land where a makeshift Ram temple stands.

“The correct conclusion, at this stage, is that the status quo will be maintained until the cases are taken up by the Supreme Court,” he said. “I have full faith in the people of India. I alsohave full vondidence in the traditions of secularism…”

Thursdays judicial fiat marked the end of a chapter in a more than a century-old Hindu-Muslim dispute that has its genesis in 1528 when a military commander of Babar is said to have built a three-domed mosque named after the emperor.

The row took a new twist in December 1949 when idols of Ram were sneaked into the mosque, leading to daily Hindu prayers. The present case kicked off in January 1950 in a court in Faizabad, Ayodhyas twin town.

The emotive movement took a volatile turn in the 1980s when Hindu groups began mobilizing the community so as to build a grand Ram temple at the Babri mosque site. It quickly escalated Hindu-Muslim tensions.

The issue led to the worst eruption of Hindu-Muslim violence after Indias 1947 independence when Hindu mobs demolished the Babri mosque in December 1992, leaving over 2,000 people dead across the country.

Hindu activists quickly erected a makeshift temple on the ruins of the mosque.

India Inc hailed Thursdays judicial ruling — and the countrys ability to digest it without taking to the streets. “The verdict is a win-win for all,” said industry lobby Assocham.

Political leaders were, however, more nuanced.

“We should all welcome it. If anyone has any reservation over the verdict, the Supreme Court is open…,” Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said. “Nothing should be done to disturb harmony and peace.”

The Communist Party of India-Marxist said: “In our constitutional, secular, democratic system, judicial process which includes recourse to the Supreme Court should be the only way to resolve the issue.”

Disputed Ayodhya land will be shared by three

Two of the three judges of the Allahabad High Court Thursday held that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be divided into three parts – one for the Hindus, one for the Muslims and one for the Nirmohi Akhara, said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and lawyer Ravi Shankar Prasad.Prasad, who represented one of the litigant in the case, said the court said that the idol of Ram Lalla will continue to remain at its present place in the disputed structure at Ayodhya.

Talking to reporters after the verdict was delivered by the high court on the title suits relating to the dispute, Prasad said that the court held the place where idol was located as “dev-tulay” (sacred).

Prasad, who is lawyer for litigant Raghubar Das, said two judges on the high court bench – Justices S.U. Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal – said the land should be divided into three parts.

The bench, which also included Justice D.V. Sharma, was unanimous in accepting that the idol of Lord Ram could not be removed from the place where it is positioned at present, Prasad said.

He said the bench decided by a majority that the site where a makeshift Ram Lalla shrine exists is where Hindu god Ram was born.

Prasad said that the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf Board had the right to appeal in a higher court but it was his earnest appeal that the minority community should accept the verdict.

Pointing out that he was speaking as an individual and not as a BJP leader, Prasad appealed to the Muslim community to contribute in building a grand temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.

“It will help spread a new brotherhood,” he said.