Kandla port to get land back

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 11 2012, 07:53am hrs
The Supreme Court has rejected a salt manufacturer's plea, thus paving the way for its eviction from over 16,000 acre of the Kandla Port Tust (KPT) land in the Kutch region of Gujarat.

A bench headed by Justice DK Jain dismissed as withdrawn the Shree Krishna Salt Industries' (SKSI) plea seeking stay on the Delhi High Court's May order that directed the Estate Officer as well as a trial court in Gujarat to complete eviction proceedings against the firm and others within three months. However, it asked the HC to consider the firm's plea on merits.

Senior counsel PS Pathwaria argued that KPT had decided to renew the lease of the small scale manufacturer for further 30 years in 2004 and had forwarded the proposals recommending such renewal to the central government.

"KPT is the authoritry to decide about renewal of lease and the central government is nobody to say no to such renewal... KPT is required to independently consider the question of renewal of the leases... and that it is not permisible for the central government to issue directions interfereing with the exercise of the Kandla Port Trust of its statutory powers..," " he argued.

The petition stated that the Delhi HC should not have entertained the PIL filed by an NGO as it had no territorial jurisdiction to decide eviction of trespassers in possession of land in Gujarat.

In this case, the salt manufacturer was granted lease for 16,112 acre of salt land (out of 2.20 lakh acre of land vested by the central government with KPT) at Kandla Port in 1963 for 30 years and the same was extended till March 2011. Rest of the land was given to 16 major lessees and 25 minor lessees on nomination basis prevalent at that time as the land was submerged marshy land located at farway places having no prospects of any business other than manufacturing of salt, the petition stated.

While various lease deeds were executed in favour of SKSI, a PIL was filed in 2009 in the Delhi HC seeking eviction of tresspassers who were in illegal occupation of the land at KPT.

In view of the PIL, the shipping ministry decided not to renew the lease and asked the lessee to handover peaceful possession of land in August 2011. Even the HC directed that leases should not be renewed and that fresh lease should be given by way of public auction without hearing the firm, it added.

While the HC had impleaded SKSI as a party to the PIL, it had directed eviction of the lessesses within three months. It also asked the land authorities to complete eviction proceedings as the Gujarat HC was yet to decide the firm's plea claiming right of renewal.