In a major blow to nearly 2,000 buyers of plots under the Omaxe city project on the Patiala-Sirhind road, the Punjab and Haryana high court has enhanced the rate of land by Rs 1,418 per square yard in compensation to Baran village farmers, whose 331 acres of land was acquired in 2003 for the development of the integrated PDA-Omaxe City township.
If officials of the executing agency, Patiala Development Authority (PDA), are to be believed, the overall enhanced liability on the buyers, after calculation of statutory expenses, including accrued interest and development charges, may cross Rs 5,000 per square yard. This effectively means that an owner of 200 square yard plot will end up paying Rs 10 lakh, which is almost the same as the original allotment price.
The PDA’s assistant chief administrator Gurmeet Singh told the HT that such a huge increase in the price was not expected. The matter is indeed serious as it will raise huge financial burden on the buyers of the project.
“But, we will not pass on the liability to buyers till the time all legal options are exhausted. The department will soon move the Supreme Court and seek stay of the high court order,” he said.
Project came up in 2006
The project came into existence through a joint agreement between private builder Omaxe Private Ltd and PDA in November 2006.
The PDA, it is learnt, had bought the land from farmers and paid them a total of Rs 27 crore. It further sold the land to Omaxe at Rs 109 crore apart from 15% share on the overall revenue of the project.
Farmers were not satisfied with the paltry compensation paid to them by the government agency. Land owners were also agitated over the fact that the company did not fulfil the promise giving them jobs in the project.
The farmers first made an attempt to seek cancellation of their land acquisition by moving the court, but their petition was rejected by the high court’s division bench in 2011 after a long legal battle.
Then, in 2012, their petitions for enhancement in compensation in a Patiala lower court brought them some relief after the court ordered increase in compensation and, accordingly, buyers were asked to pay approximately `500 per square yard more.
However, unhappy over the minor increase, the farmers moved the high court to seek for higher compensation.
Not simply farm land, court observes
While dismissing the objections raised by the PDA that the land owners were paid as per the market rate, Justice Rameshwar Singh Malik stated that the court had no hesitation to conclude that the acquired land was having great potentiality as it was situated right on the city’s outskirts and several commercial and residential establishments were already there.
“That is the reason the private builder Omaxe sold residential plots at the initial price of Rs 5,500 per square yard, besides keeping a big chunk of land measuring 95 acres for commercial purpose. These facts speak volumes about the material fact that the acquired land could have been easily put to industrial, residential and commercial use,” the judge observed in his 21- page order.
Keeping in view these facts, the court granted the benefit of 12% increase in the rate for land owners and, accordingly, fixed Rs 1,418 per square yard along with statutory expenses.
Will launch stir if liability passed on us: Buyers
Secretary of the Omaxe City Residents’ Welfare Association, Kesar Singh Bhangoo, said that they would not pay such a huge liability.
“PDA and Omaxe are the one who minted windfall profits out of this project at the cost of farmers and residents’ pocket and even did not provide facilities as promised. They must take the onus now and clear the liability,” he said, adding that if it was imposed on them, they would launch an agitation, he added.
2003-2004: PDA acquires 331 acres on the Patiala-Sirhind road
November 2006: A joint agreement signed between the PDA and Omaxe to develop the integrated township
2011: High Court dismisses the petition of land owners against the cancellation of land acquisition.
2012: A lower court enhances the rate by `500 per square yard.
2013-2016: Not happy with the enhancement, farmers move the high court.