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Chennai-Salem Expressway: Suit over land acquisition dismissed

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Sep 04, 2018

File photo of farmers hoisting black flags in agriculture fields at Uthiramerur taluk to protest against land acquisition for the Chennai-Salem Expressway project | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

High Court upholds RFCT Act provisions

The Madras High Court today dismissed a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 105 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCT Act) in the context of the ₹10,000-crore Chennai-Salem Expressway.

A division bench of Justices TS Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by G Sundarrajan, a trustee of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an NGO. The petitioner urged the court to declare Section 105 of RFCT Act and Fourth Schedule of the Act, and the entire land acquisition proceedings initiated under National Highways Act in the expressway project as ‘unconstitutional, null and void.’

Section 105 prevented beneficial provisions of the legislation from being applied to acquisitions for national highway projects. It was unfair to deny rehabilitation and resettlement to land owners for laying highways, the petitioner said.

Plan for corridors

The proposed alignment for the 277-km greenfield highway starts near Chennai Outer Ring Road junction and pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts. This is part of the Centre’s plan to develop economic corridors, inter corridors, feeder corridors and national corridors to improve freight movements under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ programme.

The court said, “We disagree with the argument of Radhakrishnan (counsel for the petitioner) stating that the same set of land owners are treated differently. The land owners or land losers are in no way prejudiced by the inclusion of the 13 enactments in the Fourth Schedule as their interest with regard to compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement, has been fully safeguarded as the relevant provision of the RFCT Act has been made applicable to the NH Act.”

The NH Act has been in force since 1956. Similarly, the other 12 enactments have been in force for considerable length of time. The NH Act was enacted much after the 1894 Land Acquisition Act and acquisitions under the NH Act were outside the purview of the 1894 Act, so also the other 12 enactments. By introducing sub-section (3) to Section 105 of the RFCT Act, the 13 enactments have been brought under the umbrella of RFCT Act by extending the benefits of adequate compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement.

‘Valid legislation’

“Thus, for the above reasons, we hold that Section 105 and Fourth Schedule of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, is neither unconstitutional nor null and void and are held to be valid piece of legislation. For all the above reasons, the Writ Petition is dismissed. No costs,” the order said.

Published on September 04, 2018
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