As poor farmers and land-owners cry foul over growing number of acquisitions by various state governments, the Supreme Court has ruled that any attempt by the state to acquire land to benefit a particular group of people or to serve any specific interest at the cost of the interest of a large section of people, especially of "aam admi" cannot be defined as public purpose.
A bench of justice GS Singhvi and justice AK Ganguly held that such an acquisition defeats the concept of public purpose.
While scrapping the Uttar Pradesh government's order to acquire land under emergency clause (without hearing the land-owners) for constructing a jail, the court further described the law as "colonial vintage" and "a drastic law."
The land acquisition was to take place in Shahjahanpur, Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Moradabad and the notification was issue during the tenure of Mulayam Singh.Even as the apex court has on several occasions dubbed the law as archaic, the government has done little to do away with it.
Its effort to amend the British era law has hit political hurdles due to differences within the allies of the ruling coalition.
The draft legislation provides for sharing of profits by private developers with those whose land is taken away.
Holding that the pre-constitutional legislation affected person's property right, the bench said acquisition aimed to protect the interest of a private party must be quashed by the courts.
"Even though right to property is no longer fundamental and was never a natural right, and is acquired on a concession by the state, it has to be accepted that without right to some property, other rights become illusory," the bench held.
It added the concept of public purpose during acquisition should be in consistent with the concept of a welfare state and cannot remain static all the time.