In yet another blow to the 12 billion dollar steel project of South Korean major Posco, the state government has initiated the process of withdrawal of notifications for acquisition of 438 acres of private land in seven villages in the project site near Paradip.
The state government’s action follows the recent order of the chief justice of the High Court V. Gopala Gowda, pointing out several irregularities in land acquisition for the Posco plant and violation of fundamental rights of land owners in the project area.
The High Court has directed maintenance of status quo of private land in these villages till the disposal of a writ petition filed by some affected villagers opposing land acquisition for the mega project.
Meanwhile, additional district magistrate, Paradip, Surjeet Das said, “the district administration is waiting for the directive of the state government to de-notify all 438 acres of private land earmarked for acquisition for Posco plant. As per section 48 of Land Acquisition (LA) Act, government has liberty to withdraw from the acquisition of these lands of which possession has not been taken.”
Posco required 4,004 acres of land for its 12 million tonne steel plant of which 3,566 acres were government and forest land and 438 acres were private land.
Six land losers, belonging to Dhinkia, Gobindpur, Bhuiyanpal, Polanga, Bayanalkanda, Noliashai, and Nuagaon villages, had filed the writ petition against secretary, revenue and disaster management department and four others seeking direction to stop illegal and forcibly land acquisition and maintenance of status quo of the private land.
While hearing the writ, justice Gowda, in his interim order, stated that the acquisition of land in the name of Posco through a state-owned corporation is not permissible in law as the acquisition of land is in favour of a private company and not for public purpose.
Exercise of the power by the state government waiving the statuary right under section 5 (A) of Land Acquisition Act is bad in law and issue of notifications for land acquisition without there being an order of the state government is a gross violation of Fundamental and Statuary Rights guaranteed to land owners under articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
It may be noted Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), the land acquisition agency of the state government, had issued the impugned notifications under section 4 and 6 of the LA Act 1894 to acquire land for the Posco steel plant.
Justice Gowda observed that the corporation is not competent to acquire land exclusively for any particular company and could only, under certain circumstances, acquire land for an ‘industrial estate’ or an ‘industrial area’ as defined under Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation Act 1980.
Idco had requisitioned the district collector, Jagatsinghpur, to acquire land for the Posco project in 2005. Accordingly, 4(1) notification was issued and the administration later issued 6(1) notification under the LA Act on 7th Janauary’2008. The above notifications show that the land was being acquired for public purpose and not for a private company.
Out of 438 acres of private land earmarked to be acquired in three panchayats of Nuagaon, Gada Kujanga and Dhinkia, the administration had paid compensation of Rs 1.43 cores to the land losers for acquisition of eight acres of private land at the rate of Rs 17 lakh per acre.
The High Court observed that the impugned notifications under section 6 (1) were published beyond one year from the date of publication of notification under section 4 (1) in respect of the land covering these villages.
Similarly, section 9 was issued and served upon the land owners before passing awards by determining the market value of their acquired land and that awards have been passed beyond the period of two years.
[Source – Business Standard]