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HC cancels land acquisition in 3 UP villages

Allahabad: In a setback to the Mayawati government and thousands of apartment buyers, the Allahabad High Court today set aside acquisition of land in three villages of Noida, Greater Noida and Noida Extension areas while ordering enhanced compensation to farmers of some other villages in Gautam Budh Nagar district.

The order was passed by a specially-constituted three-judge bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan, S U Khan and V K Shukla on the writ petition of 491 farmers from more than a dozen villages in the district who have challenged the acquisition of more than 3000 hectares of land by the state government.

Owners of residential flats in the three affected villages – Deola, Chak Shahberi and Asadullahpur – will be hit by the ruling.The court has ruled that affected farmers of these villages were "entitled to restoration of their land subject to the return of any compensation they have already received".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 were 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.

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