Allahabad, Oct 21: In a jolt to thousands of flat buyers, the Allahabad High Court today ordered the Mayawati government to return to farmers land acquired in three villages of Gautam Buddh Nagar district and pay higher compensation to similarly affected farmers of other villages.
This means that apartments that were being pre-sold in the villages of Asdullapur, Yusufpur Chak Shaberi and Devla by commercial developers may not be built. In exchange, the farmers have been asked to return money given to them earlier as compensation.
However, farmers in about 60 other villages in the Noida and Greater Noida area, where many of the residential complexes are coming up, will not be entitled to reclaim their land and instead will receive more money from the government.
A three-judge bench of the high Court comprising justices Ashok Bhushan, S U Khan and V K Shukla quashed the UP government's notification of land acquisition in the three villages on a bunch of 491 petitions by farmers challenging the land acquisition.
In its 400-page-long order, the court said "the petitioners shall be entitled to restoration of their land subject to deposit of compensation which they had received".
Raising questions over UP government's land acquisition policy for development of Greater Noida and Noida extension areas, the court directed the Chief Secretary of the state to conduct an inquiry into the "change of land use".
It also restrained authorities from undertaking any further construction without getting due approval from the National Capital Region Planning Board.
The court also granted relief to farmers of other villages, observing that "they shall be entitled to payment of additional compensation" which could be up to "64.70 per cent of the compensation paid earlier" and that payment of the same shall be "ensured by the Authority (Noida/Greater Noida) at an early date.
"It may be open for the Authority to take a decision as to what proportion of additional compensation be asked to be paid by allottees", the court said with regard to the land that had been acquired in the name of "planned industrial development" but was later sold to private builders for the construction of residential complexes.
The court also ordered that “no further construction shall take place in the area unless approval for the same is given by the National Capital Region Planning Board”.
The court took serious note of the fact that vast tracts of land in the district were acquired by invoking the urgency clause, for purpose of “planned industrial development”, but was later handed over to private builders for construction of residential complexes”.
“The Chief Secretary of the state is hereby directed to get an inquiry conducted into the entire process of allotment of land to private builders, by an officer not below the rank of Secretary, and submit its report to the state government”. A lawyer representing the farmers said, “There was a kind of a mafia working in collusion with the officials of the authority because the manner in which they had taken land was unfair”.
“I have all sympathy with the investors, but the Supreme Court has said the dispute is purely between the farmers and builders,” he said.
Surender Yadav, a farmer whose land in Itara village would fetch him compensation said, “We are not satisfied with this order. There is nothing new in it. We would have anyway got this deal two-three months back. If they don't scrap it, we will go to the Supreme Court”.
The invoking of the Land Acquisition Act's urgency clause by the state government had been a major cause of resentment among the petitioners who had claimed that this had deprived them of an opportunity for raising objections and bargain for a better compensation.
Moreover, they had also been objecting to the change in “land use”, pointing out that while the government notifications stated “planned industrial development” as the objective of acquiring their land, it was being later handed over to real estate developers for construction of housing complexes.
A number of builders and thousands of flat buyers who had invested in the aforesaid housing projects had also approached the High Court with the plea that any adverse order would badly affect them for no fault of theirs.
Development of Noida, Greater Noida and Noida Extension areas has been high on the priority list of the Mayawati government in the state.
However, over the past few years, acquisition of land for the purpose has become a volatile issue and the government has been finding itself in a spot on account of vociferous protests from farmers and vitriolic attacks from the opposition parties.
On May 12, the High Court had struck down the acquisition of 156 hectares of land in Shahberi village of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which was acquired in the name of “planned industrial development of Greater Noida”, but was later sold to private builders.
The state government's appeal against the High Court was later struck down by the Supreme Court.
Buoyed by the judiciary's stance, aggrieved farmers began moving the High Court in droves.
As the matter grew in magnitude, with the fate of hundreds of farmers, several real estate companies and thousands of flat buyers at stake, the court decided to constitute a special three-judge bench to hear all these petitions.
On hearing the High court order, the farmers of Bisrakh village today rejected it saying that they would approach the Supreme Court for relief.
Several leading farmers in Bisrakh told mediapersons that the additional 64 per cent compensation ordered was inadequate.
“We want our land back. We want to sell our land at market rates. The authorities acquired our land for Rs 800 a sq metre and sold it to builders for Rs 10,000 a sq metre. We can't accept the relief from the High Court. We will approach the Supreme court. If we don't get relief, we will resume our agitation”, said a farmers' representative.
Major builders in Noida Extension and Greater Noida welcomed the High Court order and hoped that the impasse would now be over.