With Supreme Court quashing the acquisition of over 270 acres of land in Manimajra for extension of Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park, the project is a closed chapter as far as UT administration is concerned.
The judgment has left the administration with no option but to return the land that had been acquired for the project, including the one that was amicably acquired. However, getting the people to return the compensation amount is going to throw up its own challenges.
In all, 35 petitioners had moved the Supreme Court and they own around 220 acres of the 272 acres acquired. A compensation of Rs 30 lakh per acre had been paid by the administration. Land cost of the project was pegged at Rs 80-crore, where even if only 50 acres was given up by farmers with consent, the administration will have to get around Rs 15 crore back from them. Officials, however, are uncertain if they will be able to return this amount.
Meanwhile, as far as reviving the project is concerned, it would require reacquiring the entire land all over again and UT officials are tightlipped on the same.
Informing UT Adviser KK Sharma said, "The Supreme court ruling is final and we are using the legal mechanism to comply with the judgment. It is final that no project will be developed on the land that had been acquired by us in 2006-07, including the land where we had the consent of the land owners." However, he refused to comment on the fact if there would be reacquisition of land to develop the third phase.
The SC ruling in the matter, which was delivered on October 10, had labeled the acquisition arbitrary and an attempt to benefit private real estate developers in the garb of IT development. The officials feel the ruling had come as a big hindrance in the project and that clearing the project would have added to the development of the city.
"There is no point in mourning over the issue, as the Supreme Court ruling cannot be challenged. If higher-ups make up their mind, this third phase can definitely be set up elsewhere in the city, where the land is already with the administration. However, it requires will and consent," rued a senior official from administration.
A Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya at Supreme court on October 10 held that the land acquisition process was conducted in a "casual and mechanical" manner, giving a go-by to legal provisions meant for protecting the interests of farmers, small landholders, agriculture, environment and ecology. The Bench noted that the Chandigarh Administrator was the sole authority that could acquire land on behalf of the Union Territory and no other officer "is competent to exercise the power" under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and the Land Acquisition (Companies) Rules, 1963. It also ruled that the land acquisition officer had not at all applied his mind to the objections of the landowners and merely created a façade of doing so.
Sarangpur an option?
Sources in the UT administration inform that there is a patch of land in Sarangpur and a couple of green patches where the IT hub can be planned. The issue will be discussed with UT administrator and then at the centre level, following which a decision would be taken.