INDIA. Mumbai: The Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd on Thursday submitted to the Bombay High Court that the proceedings of acquisition of its land at Vikhroli in North East Mumbai, initiated by the Maharashtra government for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project were “illegal and bad in law”.
The company, which last month filed a petition challenging the Maharashtra government’s order dated September 15, awarding compensation to it for land acquisition, stated that the final compensation amount of Rs.264 crore offered by the Government was a fraction of the initial Rs.572 crore offered to the company for the land acquisition.
The company, in its petition, has sought that the high court directs the state government not to proceed towards the award passed and initiation of possession proceedings. The company, in its rejoinder affidavit filed in response to the affidavits filed by the Maharashtra Government and the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), denied that it was delaying the project.
A division bench comprising Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sharmila Deshmukh heard the matter on Thursday and adjourned it till November 21.
In the affidavit filed through Bachubhai Munim & Co., Godrej & Boyce stated that after taking over 26 months to issue the award of compensation, it is unacceptable that the Govt now claims urgency for the project. The delay in concluding the acquisition proceedings and recourse to multiple extensions was due to the State.
The authorities have failed to fulfil the mandatory statutory requirements of the Fair Compensation Act. No report was prepared to detail the approximate cost of the land acquisition. The authorities have failed to fulfil the mandatory statutory requirements of the Fair Compensation Act. Besides, the issuance of the award does not entitle the authorities to take possession of the petitioner’s property since the award is ex-facie illegal and null.
The company and the Government have been embroiled in a legal dispute over the acquisition of the company-owned land in suburban Vikhroli in North East Mumbai for the bullet train project since 2019. Of the total 508.17 kilometres of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, 21 km is planned to be underground. One entry point to the underground tunnel falls on the land at Vikhroli, owned by Godrej.
The company’s land already acquired include 89 sq yards of land for laying additional tracks in connection with the Ghatkopar – Mulund Arterial Railway Sidings and 56 acres for the Eastern Express Highway.
In an application filed earlier, the company had claimed that the entire proceedings for land acquisition had lapsed in 2020. Hence, the officer’s recent award was void ab initio.
Earlier, the state government, in its affidavit, stated that the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail corridor project is a priority project for the Government of India since it will be the country’s first bullet train and will run at a maximum speed of 350 km per hour, covering the stretch between the two cities in under three hours from the usual seven hours.
Meanwhile, out of a total of 1,070 acres of land to be required in Maharashtra, around 1,015 acres of land in Thane, Palghar and Mumbai have already been acquired.