The Maharashtra government is empowered to acquire parts of two iconic buildings, housing the headquarters of India's leading firm Reliance group and the Indian Express, at a posh south Mumbai locality, the Supreme Court held today.
The apex court reversed a Bombay High Court order holding that without acquisition of land, part of a building cannot be acquired, while terming the acquisition process initiated by the state government as "legal" and "valid".
The buildings in question are 'Reliance Centre' at 19, Walchand Hirachand Marg, Ballard Estate and the 'Express Building' at plot no 18, Block No 1, Back Bay Reclamation at expensive Nariman Point in south Mumbai. In the Express Building, the land belongs to the government, while in the case of Reliance Industries, the ownership of the land is with the Port Trust.
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M Shantanagoudar held that acquisition of part of a building can be made without acquiring land underneath such a building. "We find that the acquisition process to be legal and valid and the notifications in question are valid and let it be taken to a logical end. Since there was interim stay by the High Court and thereafter a status quo order by this Court, we direct that the acquisition be completed as expeditiously as possible. There is no merit in the prayer to drop it. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed and the impugned judgement and order passed by the High Court is set aside," the bench said.
In both cases, part of the building had been acquired by the state government under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and the owners of building do not own the land.
The question before the apex court was whether, under the Act, acquisition of part of a building can be made without acquiring land underneath it. The High Court had quashed the acquisition, sans the land, as unsustainable. The verdict came on the appeals of the Maharashtra government against the common judgement of the High Court, passed in 2006, on two separate pleas filed by the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and the Express Newspapers.
In case of the RIL building, the government had sought to acquire an area, measuring 1,478 square meters, on its third floor for an office of its 'Anti Corruption Bureau, Prohibition and Intelligence Bureau'.
In the Express building, the government had initiated proceedings to acquire an area of 4,500 square feet on the second floor for use by the State Government's Controller of Rationing, Food and Civil Supplies Department.