Monday, May 5, 2014

High Court rules in favour of land owners given the run around by Dans Energy

GANGTOK, 04 May: In a landmark judgment passed on 01 May, last Thursday, the High Court of Sikkim took serious note of what tantamount to “forceful land grabbing” by power developer Dans Energy. The landowners who are farmers have been deprived of the use of their land since the land was acquired by the power developer in 2007 and all this while they were not paid complete compensation for their land.
Justice SP Wangdi, while passing the order, has imposed costs of Rs. 1 lakh on Dans Energy Pvt Ltd and directed the power developer to pay the compensation with interest [at the rate of 9% for first year from the date of possession and 15% per annum thereafter until full and final payment of the dues] to the land owners within 30 days.
The project developer is alleged to have not paid compensation to the land owners despite construction of the 96 MW Jorethang Loop hydel project having begun in 2010.
The costs of the proceedings, at Rs 20,000 each have been directed to be deposited in the bank accounts of Sing-Chit Gompa Monastic School [Sing-Chit Ngadak Gompa], Manul, North Sikkim; Destitute Home, Chakung, West Sikkim; Kingstone Destitute Home, Rhenock, East Sikkim; Children from Special School for Hearing & Speech Impaired, Gangtok; and Mayal Lyang Mission Society, Namchi, South Sikkim.
The petitioners, Bal Bahadur Tamang, Purna Bahadur Rai, Ram Prasad Subba along with four others, had approached the High Court seeking judicial remedies for adequate compensation from the power developer.                                                                            
Dans Energy had been requested time and again to release the compensation due to the land owners but the project developer remained absolutely adamant, the single bench observed while pronouncing the judgment.
“In any case, once award under Section 11 is passed, it becomes final under Section 12 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and nothing further would lie against it, except otherwise provided under the Act,” Justice Wangdi observed.
It was revealed that  during the time of issuing the notice under Section 9 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, some of the Petitioners and other land owners and tenants appeared before the District Collector, South and submitted their objections on various grounds against the acquisition of the land and the manner in which it was being carried out.
The primary objection raised by the petitioners was on the meager rate of Rs. 8.47 per square feet at which their land was being acquired when the prevailing market rate was Rs. 55 per square feet and even the rate fixed by the Government for dry field was Rs. 15 per square feet and for agricultural land well over Rs. 30 per square feet.
The District Collector, South after considering all the relevant factors like the locality, connectivity, availability of power facility etc., and the genuine demand of the land owners, revised the rate of compensation to Rs. 18.25 per square feet, thereby enhancing the total compensation to Rs. 1,28,36,448. After deducting the sum of Rs. 49,90,994 released earlier, the balance of Rs. 83,61,998 thus remains to be released.
Dans Energy Limited took over possession, carried out allegedly callous and random construction activities causing landslides and slips through the entire length of the road damaging even the un-acquired land of the petitioners compelling them to approach the District Collector, South with a complaint against the power developer, and also petitioned the Governor of Sikkim, the Chief Minister and other concerned authorities including all the respondents.
These unfortunately were not responded to leading the petitioners to file Title Suits on 2010 in the Court of the Civil Judge, South Sikkim at Namchi. The Title Suits were ultimately disposed of citing VII Rule 10 in which the petitioners reliefs claimed were beyond its pecuniary jurisdiction.
The court has observed that neither the power developer Dans Energy nor the State Respondents challenged the award passed by the District Collector, South under Section 11 of the LA Act before any forum.
The petitioners had also approached the High Court Lok Adalat in November, 2012, but the case was disposed of without any settlement.
Dans Energy contended in the court questioning the correctness of the valuation of the compensation and refused payment, however, the Court has rejected the plea of the power developer stating, “It is too late in the day for the Respondent power developer to question on the plea that it was not correctly arrived. In any case, once award under Section 11 is passed, it becomes final under Section 12 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and nothing further would lie against it, except otherwise provided under the Act.”
The High Court has directed the power developer to deposit balance amount with interest after calculation as stipulated in the declaration of award under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and disburse to the petitioners their respective amounts of compensation.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Readers are invited to comment on, criticise, run down, even appreciate if they like something in this blog. Comments carrying abusive/ indecorous language and personal attacks, except when against the people working on this blog, will be deleted. It will be exciting for all to enjoy some earnest debates on this blog...