The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court orders land-grab probe

Calcutta, Feb. 15: Calcutta High Court has directed the Burdwan district magistrate to probe an allegation by villagers that the zilla parishad had illegally handed over their land to contractors laying a metalled road.

In response to a petition from residents of Bhakti Nagar, Kalaijhuti and Bijoypur in the Ausgram police station area, Justice Amitava Lala yesterday also asked the district magistrate to assess how much money the villagers had lost if their land had been taken over. If any wrongdoing is found, legal action should be initiated and the district administration will have to take steps to return the land, he added.

At least 200 villagers had moved the writ petition before the high court, alleging that the zilla parishad had taken over their land and handed it over to a contractor it has engaged to widen the road between Ananda Bazar and Bharta.

The villagers’ counsel, S. Roy, told the court: “One day my clients saw some people digging up the land owned by them. They came to know that a contractor had directed them to dig up the land. When the villagers went to the contractor, he said he had to part with Rs 5 lakh to bribe the parishad to get the job.”

Roy also told the court that the contractor and his men had attacked the villagers when they tried to stop the work. The farmers were not against development but the zilla parishad should have intimated them and paid compensation before taking their land, the counsel said. The court should direct the district administration to pay adequate compensation for any loss or damage to the land owned by his clients, he added.

Manjari Gupta, appearing for the state, said the zilla parishad had acquired the land to construct a metalled road for the benefit of the population there. She, however, contested the contractor’s allegation that he secured the job by paying a bribe.

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