Ranchi, July 16: Jharkhand High Court today ruled out return of land acquired by the state government in Nagri way back in 1957-58, even as it reproached public representatives for “blowing the issue out of proportion and misguiding the poor and illiterate”.
The court also asked the government to translate all earlier court orders into Hindi and regional languages for circulation among the villagers so that they understood the issue better.
“Land acquired cannot be returned as it has been taken over by the government for the purpose of development of the state,” the court said, in an apparent reference to JMM chief Shibu Soren who exhorted Nagri villagers to plough their land yesterday.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice Jaya Roy was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the Bar Association of Jharkhand High Court.
The bench observed that chaos was being perpetuated by a handful of people who were not interested in the growth and prosperity of the state.
The court said Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 says if the government wants to withdraw acquisition, it can do only for the land of which possession has not been taken.
“In this case, not only possession has been taken by the government but possession has been handed over to three prestigious institutions (IIM, NUSRL and IIIT) coming up in the state,” the court observed.
The bench also made it clear that in land acquisition proceedings, possession of land is taken symbolically — it is not necessary for the government to build a boundary wall or put a lock and key or chowkidars.
The bench observed that if acquired land has to be returned by the government, then the entire process of acquisition is wasted.
Commenting on the Nagri dispute, the bench said the image of the state was being tarnished, adding that issues could not be resolved on the streets or through violence. The court rapped the government for not handling the matter deftly and said that land had been acquired legally and it has to be accepted and obeyed.
“If land acquired in the past few decades are to be returned then there will be no PSUs or RIMS in the state,” the court observed, directing advocate-general Anil Kumar Sinha to convey the observations of the bench to the high powered committee constituted by the chief minister to deal with the Nagri issue.
The court wondered why the particular 227 acres had been chosen by “persons with vested interests” who were now showing support to villagers by misguiding them. The court said a picture was being painted that the state would have to starve because there would be no land left to cultivate.
The court said that the government should keep in mind several points while taking any decision to return the land. (See box)
The bench also directed Sinha to coordinate with the committee and table a status report before it on July 31. The case will be taken up for hearing on August 6.
Sinha while clarifying the stand of the government said that the committee is holding meetings with the ryots of Nagri who have lost their land to strike a compromise and solve the dispute.
The dispute centres around the ownership of around 227 acres in Nagri, including 13 acres for a proposed Ring Road, where the campuses of IIM-R, NUSRL and IIIT are coming up. Villagers claim the state’s land acquisition procedure followed in the 1950s was faulty and that they were in possession of the land and also paid tax to the government till 2011.