Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project: On Tuesday, the Gujarat High Court dismissed more than 120 petitions filed by farmers challenging the land acquisition process for the country’s first-ever bullet train project, connecting Mumbai to Ahmedabad. However, a division bench of justices AS Dave and Biren Vaishnav said the issue of higher compensation is still open and farmers who are seeking more money against their land can still approach the authorities, according to a PTI report. Moreover, while seeking more money for land acquisition, farmers could cite past examples where higher compensation was granted by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) or any other such company for acquiring land, the court said.
According to the report, the court turned down the claim made by farmers that the state government of Gujarat did not have powers to issue a notification for land acquisition since the bullet train project was divided between two states – Gujarat and Maharashtra. The court is of the view that under the state Act, the powers granted to the bureaucracy to give a ‘go-by’ to social impact assessment as well as rehabilitation and resettlement, if required, do not belong to the category of ‘excessive delegation’, as claimed by the agitating farmers. The court further stated that issuance of a notification announcing the commencement of land acquisition without undertaking social impact assessment is valid as well. The high court bench also mentioned that the process of calculating compensation was fair.
The Gujarat High Court was satisfied with the social as well as environment impact assessment carried out by a private agency engaged by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) under the guidelines of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding the high-speed rail project.
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The petitioners’ counsel, Anand Yagnik was quoted in the report saying that farmers who mostly belong to south Gujarat would go against the order and approach the Supreme Court. These farmers claimed that the land acquisition process could not be started before revising their land prices, as mandated under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The farmers claimed that the compensation offered to them was on the market rates that were decided way back in the year 2011. They demanded that before calculating the compensation for land acquisition, the government of Gujarat must first revise the market rates of their land and grant them compensation on those rates. Also, they challenged the Gujarat Amendment Act of 2016 which tweaked the 2013 law, the report said.