[Bullet Train land acquisition] Urgent interim relief cannot be denied citing national interest: Godrej & Boyce to Bombay High Court

The company in its rejoinder affidavit filed today reiterated that land acquisition proceedings were ex-facie illegal and claimed that any delay in acquiring land was not attributable to them.
Bombay High Court, Godrej & Boyce
Bombay High Court, Godrej & Boyce

National interest cannot be cited as ground to deny urgent interim reliefs , Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. told the Bombay High Court on Thursday in the case relating to acquisition of the company's land for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project.

A rejoinder affidavit to this effect was filed by the company on Thursday in their petition challenging an order of State for acquisition of its land for the project.

The company pointed out that the State in its affidavit had opposed grant of any interim reliefs contending that the same would jeopardize “national interest” as construction of the project will be delayed.

Refuting the claim, Godrej & Boyce claimed that failure to grant urgent relief would render the petition infructuous as the construction work would cause irreparable loss to the petitioner’s property.

“The failure to grant urgent interim relief would render the present petition infructuous as should the respondents acquire possession of the land and commence construction work for the purpose of bullet train project, irreparable injury would be caused to the petitioner’s property," the affidavit stated.

Urgent interim relief cannot be denied on purported national interest grounds, it emphasised.

The matter was heard by a division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sharmila Deshmukh today which listed the case for hearing on November 21.

Godrej & Boyce has challenged an award of compensation passed on September 15 by the Deputy Collector for acquiring the company's land after awarding compensation of ₹264 crores.

In an application filed by the company earlier, it had claimed that the entire proceedings for land acquisition had lapsed in 2020 and, hence, the award passed by the officer was void ab initio.

Calling the land acquisition proceedings “unlawful”, Godrej & Boyce claimed there were "multiple and patent illegalities" in the same.

The Central government had responded to the application after which Godrej filed the present rejoinder affidavit.

The affidavit filed through Bachubhai Munim & Co. reiterated that the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the Maharashtra government was "illegal and bad in law".

After taking more than 26 months to issue the award of compensation, it is unacceptable for the State to now claim urgency for the project, the company said.

The affidavit also pointed out that the delay in concluding the acquisition proceedings in respect of the plot and its recourse to multiple significant extensions was due to the State.

The company also contended that the issuance of award does not entitle them to take possession of the petitioner’s property since the award is ex-facie illegal and null.

"This is demonstrably false and record clearly establishes that any substantial delay is attributable entirely to the respondents (state and NHSRCL). It was the respondents who grossly delayed the acquisition proceedings," the affidavit said.

The company also said that no report bad been prepared detailing the approximate cost of land acquisition and hence the entire decision making process was bad in law.

“The compensation amount of ₹264 crores was a fraction of the initial ₹572 crores offered to the company for acquisition of the land. There is non-application of mind while assessing the fair market value of the land in question," the affidavit said.

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