New Delhi: The Supreme Court today slammed the authorities for taking advantage of the "colonial law" on land acquisition to divest farmers of their prime agricultural land benefitting the rich and paying "pittance" to common men.
The apex court said a "sinister campaign" has been launched by various state governments to take advantage of the law against the poor people for taking away the land and giving it to builders where multiplexes, malls, posh residential complexes are developed which are beyond the reach of common men.
"Do you think judges live in fools' paradise"? snapped a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly when senior advocate P P Rao responded to a question that the residential complexes were being developed for the "needy".
"You are building hotels, malls, commercial complexes, townships where common men have no access. Does it come under the perception of public purpose for which the land have been acquired?"
The bench questioned the change by Uttar Pradesh government in land use in Greater Noida and said "this is not the plan for which the land is acquired. How different notifications came out for changing the use of land".
The sharp remarks were made by the bench during the hearing on petitions filed by Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority and real estate developers and builders, including Supertech and Amrapali, challenging the Allahabad High Court order which had quashed the notifications for land acquisition in Greater Noida adjoining the national capital.
The bench made it clear that it was not going to stay the High Court verdict and would go ahead with the hearing of the parties.
"We are indicating that we are not inclined to stay the order of the High Court. We are not inclined to entertain the special leave petition. We will ask only for your submissions," the bench said.
While Rao, appearing for Supertech, contended the development of residential complexes were for the "needy", the bench drew his attention to the brochure of the company saying "what is there in it is not for the poor people".
"Look at your own brochure. It is saying about swimming pool, spa, tennis court, badminton court, beauty parlour, ayurvedic massage etc. All these are for poor people?
"I am reading from your own brochure. Is it for a common man? Land is taken and given to the builder. This is a sinister plan," the bench said.
"Land is given for the development which must be inclusive. The state is taking advantage of the law against the poor. A sinister campaign is made by various state governments. The state is doing a totally anti-people thing," it said.
While maintaining that the purpose of the land acquisition was being defeated, the bench said the poorest man in society should benefit in public interest but "you (authorities) are responding in such a way that they (the poor and common men) are driven out".
"In the name of globalisation, you are marginalising the people. Why is there a proliferation of terrorist activities? Because they are pushed to the walls. Why so many people are committing suicide? They are marginalised. You are not taking care of them. Poor men cannot come to this court," the bench said.
The court expressed its anguish over the whole development in recent times where the emergency clause has been applied for acquiring land of farmers on the pretext of public purpose.
"The state is taking advantage of the colonial law. What you are giving to the common men is pittance," the bench said.
The High Court had on May 31 quashed acquisition of 170 hectares of land at Gulistan village in Greater Noida for industrial development.
The High Court had said that acquisition of land in Greater Noida for residential apartments, which was done after invoking Section 17 of Land Acquisition Act depriving the aggrieved persons of the chance to file their objections on the ground that the matter was urgent, was a "colourable exercise of power" and had quashed the notification.
The counsel, appearing for Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, contended the acquisition was part of its "well-known" 2021 plan called the Industrial Development Plan which is a generic term that includes commercial and residential use.
The High Court order had come on the plea of landowners and farmers who challenged the government notification for land acquisition issued on September 5, 2007.