Srinagar Ring Road Project: Status Quo On Land Acquisition To Continue

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Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has directed the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to maintain status quo on the land required for the construction of the Srinagar ring road project.

“These clubbed matters relate to acquisition of land. On the last occasion, we have directed the parties to complete the pleadings including filing of counter affidavits but even today the pleadings in all the petitions have not been completed,” said a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul.

Accordingly, the court directed the counsels for the parties to complete their pleadings by the next date of hearing. The court listed the petitions for next hearing on December 14.

The court has also directed the involved parties that if any interim direction was issued by the court earlier in the case, it will continue till the next date of hearing in all the petitions.

It is pertinent to mention here, that earlier this year several aggrieved persons from several villages of Budgam had approached the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, contending that their land was notified to be acquired under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in the year 2017, and that these proceedings have “lapsed” due to the efflux of time as per section 11B of the erstwhile J&K Land Acquisition Act 1934 samvat 1990.

The petitioners argued that neither was possession of the land taken from them, nor were they paid any compensation as a result of an award or under Section 17 of the J&K Land Acquisition Act. The Clubbed matters are the petitions filed by Ab Salam Bhat vs JK Govt, Ali Mohammad Akhoon vs JK Govt, Ghulam Ahmad Paul Vs JK Govt and several others.

Notably, taking cognizance of this issue, the J&K High Court had issued an order in the petition regarding the Srinagar Ring Road and asked the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI) that the proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act have lapsed by the efflux of time and Land of petitioners in Budgam cannot be taken into possession.

In the case “Abdul Salam Bhat and Ors.V/s Government of JK and Ors. Respondent(s) Through: Mr. N.H.Shah, Sr. AAG.”  order, “CM No. 5051/2020 in WP © 1726/2020 CM No. 5052/2020”, the J&K High Court has said that the notification issued in 2017 under the Land acquisition act of 1934 samvat 1990, under section 6 has lapsed due to efflux of time and the respondent can no longer take possession of the land of of petitioner, Abdul Salaam Bhat and others who were the eligible candidates for the benefits of the land given to the NHAI for the construction of Srinagar Ring road.

“Having heard learned counsel for the petitioners and perused the record, I am of the view that the declaration in the instant case in terms of Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, was issued on 12th December 2017, and if no award has been passed by the Collector land Acquisition within a period of two years, then by operation of Section 11-B of the Act, the acquisition proceedings shall be deemed to have been lapsed.” reads the High Court order passed by Judge Sanjeev Kumar.

The order further read, “Reference in this regard is invited to the communication of Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, dated 18th May 2020, wherein this position stands admitted.”

Notably, there are three different acts for the Land acquisition including Central Land acquisition act, 1894 which in 2013 was amended and renamed as Right to fair compensation act, 2013 and J&K Land Acquisition Act, 1934 samvat 1990.

As per the J&K Land acquisition act, the Government is entitled to acquire land, pay compensation and complete award proceedings within 2 years from the issuance of the notification. But, in the Srinagar Ring Road case, for Budgam district the notification was issued in 2017 and by July-August 2019, the Government was supposed to complete the proceedings which it failed to do and the whole case became null & void.

It is pertinent to mention here, that after the August 5, 2019 GOI abrogated Article 370 and 35-A of the constitution, about 80% of the erstwhile state Law were repealed including the J&K Land Acquisition Act, 1934 samvat 1990. As per experts, the new notification for acquisition of land for construction of Srinagar ring road will now be issued under the Right to fair compensation act, 2013, creating hopes for the land owners of a better compensation.

Meanwhile, the J&K High Court has said that in case of the final award qua the proprietary land of the petitioners has not been passed and if the petitioners were still in possession of their proprietary land, their position shall not be disturbed.

“Be that as it may, a case for indulgence at this stage is made out. Notice to the respondents, returnable within a period of four weeks. Requisites within one week.” The court order reads.

It is pertinent to mention here, that earlier this year several aggrieved persons from several villages of Budgam had approached the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, contending that their land was notified to be acquired under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in the year 2017, and that these proceedings have “lapsed” due to the efflux of time as per section 11B of the erstwhile J&K Land Acquisition Act 1934 samvat 1990.

The petitioners argued that neither was possession of the land taken from them, nor were they paid any compensation as a result of an award or under Section 17 of the J&K Land Acquisition Act.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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