Thursday, August 21, 2014

High Court gives Army two weeks to furnish details on land occupied in North Sikkim

GANGTOK, 20 Aug: A division bench of the High Court of Sikkim has taken serious note of the inadequate amount of hiring charges paid to landowners by the Army. This, in connection with the Public Interest Litigation pertaining to land occupied by the Indian Army in North Sikkim for the last 40 years.
The Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice NK Jain and including Justice SK Sinha, in a direction passed on 14 August, given two weeks time to the Army administration to furnish details of all the landholders with their names and addresses; the details of private land occupied by them; the amount of hiring charge paid to each landowner; whether the Army has finalized the hiring charges as per the prevalent market rate, after hearing the concerned persons/ land owners; the basis for calculating the amount of hiring   charges; and mode of payment of hiring charges paid by respondents to landholders.
The grievance of the petitioners in their Public Interest Litigation is that their land, as well as houses, have been occupied by the Indian army forcefully without entering into an agreement to pay rental or hiring charges and without issuing any notification for acquisition of their lands and houses.
They also stated that the Army has neither been paying any amount of hiring charges nor are they vacating their land.
After the intervention of the High Court, the Army started paying hiring charges to some of the landholders but it was only a meager amount and not as per the prevalent market rate, it is now being contended.
The petitioners’ counsel submitted that during pendency of this Writ Petition, the Army decided to acquire the land, but the same has not been acquired till now, even the notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 has not been issued.
Now, the new Land Acquisition Act of 2013 (The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013) has come into force, but for want of framing of Rules under the new Act, the acquisition proceedings have not been finalized and compensation has also not been paid.
The court has also directed the state respondents to let the High Court know about the status of framing of new Rules by State of Sikkim under the new Land Acquisition Act of 2013.
However, Senior Counsel, Karma Thinlay appearing on behalf of Army and Central Government submitted that the hiring charges were paid to persons whose lands were occupied, on interim basis, as per direction of this Court, but some of the owners did not accept the amount, which is lying with the Bank as per directions of the District Collector (North).
He further submitted that since the new Acquisition Act, 2013 has come into force, therefore, acquisition proceedings will be completed very soon under the provisions of the New Act of 2013, as and when the Rules are framed under the New Act of 2013.

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