Ring Road Project: HC Scraps Govt Notification On Land Acquisition

J&K High Court | File Photo

Srinagar- The High court of Jammu & Kashmir and ladakh on Wednesday declared a notification to acquire land issued under erstwhile state’s land acquisition act for Srinagar ring road as null and void.

While disposing of the writ petition filed by residents of Wathoora Budgam, a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta declared the land acquisition proceedings initiated in 2017 for construction of Srinagar Semi Ring Road as null and void.

The division bench said that the writ in the nature of mandamus is issued declaring that land acquisition proceedings pursuant to the notification dated 20.03.2017 issued under Section 4 of the J&K Land Acquisition Act (now repealed) stands lapsed under Section 11-B of the Act for want of making an award within a period of two years from the date of declaration.

“The writ petition is, accordingly, allowed,” the court observed. The court further said that it is an admitted position that the urgency provisions under Section 17 of the Act were not invoked and the possession of the land continues to be with the petitioners.

“The respondents have not brought on record any possession memo to show that they have taken possession of land notified to be acquired in accordance with law so as to vest it with the State,” the order reads

The court further observed that since the declaration under Section 6 was made on 08.08.2017, therefore, the award ought to have been made by 08.08.2019 i.e., within two years.

“However, from the objections of the respondents, it is evident that no award was made within the above period. The award was made on 11.08.2020 which is certainly beyond the period of two years from the date of declaration and could not have been made as by that time the proceedings have already lapsed,” the division bench order reads

While coming hard on the respondents, including Government of J&K, the court noted that a bare reading of the Section 11-B of repealed Land Acquisition Act of J&K reveals that the award has to be made within a period of two years from the date of publication of declaration under Section 6 and if the award is not so made, the land acquisition proceedings would lapse.

While, in the objections, the respondents had stated that the final award was made on 11.08.2020, the court observed that there was no dispute to the fact that the notification under Section 4 proposing to acquire the above land was issued on 20.03.2017.

“It was followed by declaration under Section 6 dated 08.08.2017. According to the petitioners no award was passed at least within two years of the above declaration,” the order further reads

It is pertinent to mention here that the court was hearing the basic challenge that were issued against the Land Acquisition Proceedings in pursuant to the notification dated 20.03.2017 issued under Section 4 of Jammu and Kashmir Land Acquisition Act. The petitioner in the case was Abdul Salam Bhat and others from Budgam’s Wathora village.

The primary argument of learned counsel for the petitioners was that the land acquisition proceedings have lapsed by virtue of Section 11-B of the Act as no award within the period of two years was passed from the date the declaration under Section 6 was issued and published.

Pertinently, last year, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh had 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.

Notably, over 500 families from Central Kashmir’s Budgam district await compensation for the land acquired by the government recently for the construction of the ambitious Semi Ring Road project. According to officials, over 590 acres of agricultural land has been acquired for a 62-kilometer road project which would connect Pulwama and Ganderbal districts via Budgam through Pampore, Wathoora, Budgam, Dharmuna and Narbal in western outskirts of summer capital Srinagar.

Major portion of the land measuring—400 acres of farmland was acquired in the Budgam district alone for the highway project

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Zaid Bin Shabir

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

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