Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Noida Extn dreams breaks as court scraps new acquisition

IIPM Mumbai Campus

Panic has given way to complete despair among home buyers in Noida Extension as another court verdict ordered restoration of acquired land to farmers — the second such judgment in less than two weeks — putting in jeopardy the investments of around 30,000 buyers so far.

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday quashed the state`s notifications acquiring 589 hectares of farmland in Patwari village in Greater Noida. The land was later sold to builders through auction and 11 housing projects were coming up there.

The high court has so far reversed the acquisition of around 70% of land in Noida Extension. With three more farmers` suits coming up in the next seven days, all land in the area seems set to be returned to farmers. These lands too were acquired by the authority by invoking the urgency clause without giving them the opportunity to raise objections.

Delivering the verdict on a writ petition filed by farmer Har Karan Singh and several others of Patwari village, a division bench of Justices Sunil Ambwani and S S Tiwari observed: "Dispensation of hearing provided under Section 5-A of the Land Acquisition Act by invoking urgency clause under Section 17 (4) was not proper and legal. Hence, there was no urgency for acquiring farmers` land for residential purposes in Nodia."

The Maya government is not alone in invoke the clause to acquire land. Over 15,000 hectares has been acquired in Noida and Greater Noida since 1991. "Almost all these acquisitions were done using the urgency clause by successive state governments, including that of BJP, SP and BSP," said a senior official in the authority.

The affected builders, meanwhile, are putting up a brave face. Most of them met on Tuesday to find a solution to the crisis facing their projects. The builders association reiterated that developers will protect the interest of buyers. Amrapali, three of whose projects were by Tuesday`s judgment, said, "The decision will not affect the buyers` investment with the group. We require your (buyers`) patience and trust with us and all the commitments shall be fulfilled in due time as promised.``

Meanwhile, the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority is considering approaching the Supreme Court again for judicial review of the verdict. Authority CEO Rama Raman, who was sacked by chief minister Mayawati later in the day, said, "A judicial review seems to be the only way out now." However, given that the Supreme Court had upheld the HC judgment on the Sahberi case earlier in this month, there`s little hope of the decision being upturned.

Reacting to the verdict, the state government too said it would file a special leave petition (SLP) against the high court order in the Supreme Court. Government officials said in Lucknow that a compensation of over Rs 500 crore had already been paid to the farmers and a majority of them had not opposed the acquisition.

The builder, on their part, too said they would go in appeal in the Supreme Court for relief. Most of them had begun construction in the area and had invested substantial sums of money in the projects.

Noida Extension, which is actually sectors 1 to 4 of Greater Noida, covers around 2,000 acres. GNIDA had acquired land in Patwari village three years ago after invoking the urgency clause on the pretext of laying down industrial units, and 90% of the villagers had claimed their compensation. However, around two dozen villagers had approached the Allahabad High Court earlier this year and submitted roughly 50 petitions seeking restoration of the acquired land.

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