The Bombay High Court has recently dismissed the plea filed by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. against the land acquisition holding that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project is of national importance and in the public interest.

The company challenged the acquisition proceedings initiated by the Maharashtra government and the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) in suburban Vikhroli for the project.

The Division Bench of Justice R.D. Dhanuka and Justice M.M. Sathaye held, “In our view, the powers of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India are discretionary and merely because there are certain alleged irregularities in the procedure required to be followed while acquiring the writ property, the Court cannot exercise discretionary power in view of the fact that the said Bullet Train Project being Infrastructural and Public Project of national importance.”

The Bench said that no illegality has been found in the land acquisition proceedings.

“In our view the Bullet Train Project is a Infrastructural Project of national importance, a large numbers of public would be benefited and would have saved other benefits for betterment of this country”, the Court observed.

Senior Counsel Navroz Seervai appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Senior Advocate Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and Advocate R.M. Hajare appeared on behalf of the respondents.

In this case, the petitioner company challenged an award of compensation passed by the Deputy Collector for acquiring the company’s land after awarding the compensation of Rs. 264 crores. The company claimed that the entire proceedings initiated for land acquisition lapsed in 2020 and hence the award was void-ab-initio.

The petitioner also challenged the amendment to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act after which the bullet train project had been exempted from social impact assessment carried out by the experts. On the other hand, the Maharashtra government and NHSRCL claimed the company was delaying the entire project which was of public importance.

The High Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “It is the paramount collective interest which would ultimately prevail. In the facts of this case, the private interest claimed by the petitioner does not prevail over the public interest which would subserve Infrastructural Project of public importance which is a dream project of this country and first of its kind.”

The Court said that there was no substance in the averments made by the counsel for the petitioner.

“The petitioner thus cannot be allowed to rely upon the said compensation discussed at the stage of private negotiation. The award cannot be considered as perverse and absurd on this ground. Be that as it may, the petitioner could have applied for enhancement of the claim awarded by the authority by exercising rights under the provisions of the Fair Compensation Act”, the Court asserted.

The Court did not accept the request made by the counsel for the petition for grant of stay even for a period of two weeks and therefore rejected the application for stay.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the plea.

Cause Title- Godrej & Boyce Manfacturing Co. Ltd. v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors.

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