The Supreme Court has set aside a Delhi government order to acquire land for a housing project in Rohini by invoking the urgency clause. The clause denies an opportunity to landowners to place their objections against the acquisition.
Setting aside a July 9, 2007 Delhi High Court judgment upholding the acquisition, a bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice HL Gokhale said the government cannot invoke the urgency clause under section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act for a public purpose like a residential scheme as a rule but it has to be by way of exception.
It criticised the Delhi's Lieutenant Governor's order to acquire land by dispensing a provision of the law that mandates a hearing to aggrieved land owners to place their objections.
“Where the government invokes urgency power under Section 17(1) and (4) for the public purpose like 'planned development of city or development of residential area' or 'residential scheme,' the initial presumption in favour of the government does not arise and the burden lies on the government to prove that the use of power was justified and dispensation of enquiry was necessary,” the bench added, while upholding an appeal filed by Ram Dhari Jindal Memorial Trust that runs a school in the acquired area.
Holding that the Delhi Government had “miserably failed” to satisfy the court that the Rohini residential scheme “could not have brooked the delay of a few months”, the bench held: “The action of the Lt Governor, Delhi, in the facts of the case whereby, he directed that the provisions of Section 5A shall not apply, if allowed to stand, it would amount to depriving a person of his property without authority of law.”
It set aside the April 2000 acquisition order and added if the government sought to invoke its power of urgency, it had to first form an opinion that the land required for the public purpose was urgency needed.