SC jolt to Vedanta varsity project as court upholds Orissa HC ruling

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court today upheld the Orissa High Court verdict in 2010 wherein it had quashed the land acquisition process for the proposed Vedanta University project in Puri terming it illegal and void.

The court ruled that it is more than satisfied that the High Court has not committed any error and in fact the High Court was justified in setting aside the entire acquisition proceedings, which has been vitiated by non-compliance of the statutory provisions under the Act, 1894 and the Rules, 1963 and vitiated by mala fides and favouritism and is a clear case of the non-application of mind on relevant aspects. We are in complete agreement with the view taken by the High Court.

While dismissing the case, the court also imposed a cost of Rs 5 lakh on Anil Agarwal Foundation to be deposited in the court within six weeks from today and the amount to be transferred to the Orissa State Legal Services Authority.

The division bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Krishna Murari came down heavily on the state government saying, “The manner in which the State Government has dealt with and acquired the agricultural lands belonging to 6000 families and as it in fact favoured the private limited company, which was subsequently alleged to have been converted to a public company and that too without holding any proper inquiry to the need etc., we are of the opinion that the High Court has rightly entertained the writ petitions including the Public Interest Litigation petitions and merely because some persons did not file the objections under Section 5A and/or accepted a meagre compensation and/or even accepted the compensation Civil Appeal Nos. 1144-1146 of 2011 Page 62 of 103 cannot be a ground to set aside the acquisition proceedings, which as such rightly observed by the High Court, is vitiated by not following the statutory provisions under the Act, 1894 as well as the Rules, 1963.”

The apex court further directed that the possession of the lands shall be restored to the respective landowners irrespective of the fact whether they had challenged the acquisition of their lands or not. On restoration of the possession to the landowners they shall refund the amounts received by them as compensation or otherwise in respect of their lands. The appellant, the respondents and the State Government including all authorities/ persons concerned shall implement the aforesaid directions at an early date.”

“Initially, the company asked the Government of Orissa specifically to make available for it 15,000 acres of contiguous land around Nua Nai, Puri District in Bhubaneshwar-Puri-Konark by 15.06.2006. The process for identifying the suitable locations was by the company. Even from presentation made to the Chief Minister at the relevant time and the relevant clauses of MoU dated 19.07.2006 and even the Section 41 agreement executed between the Government of Orissa and the Anil Agarwal Foundation, it can be seen that the land was identified by the company and not by the Government of Orissa. The same has been dealt with and considered by the High Court in extensor,” the judgement read.

Senior counsels C. Aryama Sundaram and Rakesh Dwivedi appeared on behalf of Vedanta Foundation. Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan appeared on behalf of the original writ petitioners.

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