RIL told to approach SC on SEZ land buy

The Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed Mukesh Ambani-promoted Mumbai SEZ’s plea for speedy completion of the land acquisition process and asked the company to approach the Supreme Court because several other cases relating to the SEZ were pending before the apex court. The company, in its petition, had contended that if the land acquisition was not completed by the deadline of June 6, the entire process would lapse under the Land Acquisition Act 1894.

Advocate Sunil Dighe, on behalf of Maha Mumbai Shetkari Sangharsh Samitee, told the court that a PIL filed by it against the SEZ was transferred to SC at the instance of Mumbai SEZ a few months ago. There are also other cases related to the Mumbai SEZ pending before the apex court.

Since SC was dealing with the issue, it would not be proper for the high court to hear Mumbai SEZ’s petition, Mr Dighe argued. The PIL filed by the aggrieved farmers of Raigad district has also raised questions whether fertile land can be acquired for SEZ, he later told ET.

An affidavit filed by special land acquisition officer Shridhar Bodhe said that a PIL and four other private writ petitions, challenging acquisition of land, are pending before SC. Consequently, the vacation bench of Justices Anand Nirgude and Rajesh Ketkar ‘disposed off’ the SEZ’s petition and asked it to approach SC.

‘Disposed off’ is a term, which means the court made no comments on the merits of the case. Under India’s land acquisition laws, the company was required to complete the formalities for acquiring land for its Maha Mumbai SEZ within two years after the state issued a declaration of “intention to acquire land” on June 6, 2007. Since the deadline expires on June 6, 2009, the SEZ moved the HC to seek direction for speedy completion of the process.

The state is yet to make a final award that would complete the process, the HC was informed. The award is announced after original land owner accepts the compensation offered and gives his/her consent to transfer the land.

The government’s lawyer had earlier told the court that before award is made, the persons interested in the land — the original land owners — must appear before the collector, so that he could verify whether acquisition has been made properly. But Mumbai SEZ counsel Janak Dwarkadas had argued that Mumbai SEZ had registered agreements of land sale, and no further verification was necessary