The Bombay High Court has set aside the Maharashtra government's notification exempting persons affected by the Nagpur-Mumbai Express Highway project from getting compensation for land acquisition as per the existing market value of their property determined based on the ready reckoner as per the Maharashtra Stamp Act, 1958.

A Division Bench of Justice S V Gangapurwala and Justice Vinay Joshi passed the order to the effect on March 24. The order copy was made available on Friday.

Under a resolution issued on August 13, 2018, the state government had decided to consider the ready reckoner (the minimum rate of property transactions notified by the government through the revenue office) as under the Maharashtra Stamp Act for determining the market value of land. However, in September 2018, the government issued a corrigendum notification exempting the Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg project from the August 2018 circular.

A few of the project-affected persons then approached the Bombay High Court seeking to quash the September 2018 notification, terming it as violative of their fundamental rights. The petitioners claimed that the state government cannot differentiate between projects while determining compensation amounts.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state government, told the court that the September 2018 corrigendum notification was issued as 83 per cent of the acquisition was complete by private purchase and compensation paid.

A Division Bench, however, quashed and set aside the corrigendum notification holding that it was beyond the powers of the executive to do so.

"Only because 83% of property for the project is acquired,it would be egregious not to apply the provisions of the statute for determination of compensation", the Bench said.

The Bench further said that if the lands had been acquired by private negotiation, then the compensation paid thereon cannot be the criteria to determine the market value for the claimants who do not agree for private negotiation.

The Bench held that the corrigendum notification was contrary to the statutory provision. "If a particular field is governed by the statute and/or rules, then the executive instructions has to be in conformity with the statutory provisions and the Rules. In exercise of executive power, the Executive cannot issue instructions, circumscribing the statutory provisions and the rules", the Court held.

Click here to read/download Judgment

With PTI inputs