In what most stakeholders called a balanced judgment, the Allahabad High Court on Friday upheld land acquisition by the Uttar Pradesh government in 60 villages in the state?s Gautam Budh Nagar district, subject to the farmers being paid an additional compensation.
The extra compensation could be up to 64.70% of what was paid earlier, plus 10% of the developed land, and it is left to the authorities concerned to decide how much of this burden will fall on the real estate companies.
The court, however, quashed the land acquisition in three villages ? Asadullapur, Shaberi and Devla ? and ordered that the acquired land be returned to farmers.
The UP government, builders and most farmers? groups welcomed the verdict, while sections of the farmers said they were not satisfied with it and would approach the Supreme Court. Builders say they are ready to take ?a small part? of the burden of extra compensation and might transfer this to some home buyers.
The order by a specially constituted three-member bench on a bunch of writ petitions filed by farmers said that no further construction shall take place in the area (Noida/Greater Noida/Noida extension) until the 2021 master plan is approved by the National Capital Region Planning Board. It has also asked the state chief secretary to inquire into ?change of land use?, that is, the entire process of allotment of land to private builders. The HC bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan, SU Khan and VK Shukla noted that the land had been acquired in the name of ?planned industrial development? but was later sold to private builders for the construction of residential complexes.
Welcoming the court?s decision, a senior UP government official told FE that no appeal would be filed against it. ?The judgment is a very balanced one and a huge relief for all. While the farmers of 60 villages are set to get higher compensation in lieu of their acquired land, the builders are happy that their projects, which are in various stages of development, have not been axed completely,? he said.
The builders, on their part, said that their buyers won?t be affected much by the ruling. Pankaj Bajaj, president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers? Associations in the National Capital Region, said: ?The judgment will allow projects to come up in Noida extension area again and the construction work can resume without any hassle.? In the three villages where acquisition notifications have been quashed, no development work had started yet and so no major loss is anticipated.
Gaursons Property MD Manoj Gaur said the developers were ready to take ?a limited portion? of the burden of extra compensation to be paid to the farmers. ?We are yet to hear from the authority on (what the builders? share of the burden is),? he said. The row over acquisitions had made banks wary of extending credit to them and the credit lines may now revive.
?The consumers who have come in the later phases of the projects might have to shell out more as the costs have increased but this (extra payments) will not be more than 5-15% of the initial price,? said Amrapali Group MD Anil Sharma.
?This is a good decision. Farmers will get their due compensation, consumers will have their dream homes soon and developers will be able to complete their projects where their money had got stuck,? RG Group MD Rajesh Goyal said.
In their writ petitions, the farmers had alleged that the state government had acquired their land by invoking the ‘urgency clause’, which deprived them of demanding adequate compensation from the development authorities. A number of builders and thousands of flat buyers who had invested in housing projects in the area had also approached the court with the plea that any adverse order would badly affect them for no fault of theirs.
Anant Kumar, a farmer of Shahberi village, whose land has been acquired, told FE that he was not satisfied with the Friday’s court order as the compensation amount was not adequate. ?Our demand is that we be given back our land and we can then sell it at market rates. We will approach the Supreme Court,? he said. Over the last year and a half, the courts have consistently pulled up the UP government over its invoking of the ‘urgency clause’ for land allotment to commercial developers. The state government says it has now taken a policy decision that the clause would not be invoked only in the ”rarest of the rare’ cases of public purpose.
The development of western UP districts bordering the national capital was high on the Mayawati government’s priority list and over the past few years many infrastructure and housing projects have been concentrated in these areas. The Yamuna Expressway, Formula 1 circuit, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Upper Ganga Expressway, the forthcoming international airport and an aviation hub at Jewar are all concentrated in these areas. However, acquisition of land for all these projects has become a volatile issue and the government has been finding itself in a tight spot on account of the violent protests by the farmers and the resulting attacks from various Opposition parties.