The Supreme Court on Friday directed the State of Rajasthan to process the allotment of land to Ultratech Cement Ltd. for setting up a cement plant.

The Bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice CT Ravikumar was hearing an appeal filed by the State assailing the judgment of the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court, which had set aside the judgment of the Single Bench and directed the Appellant – State to process the allotment of the land in favour of the Respondent – Company for setting up a cement plant in Tehsil Nawalgarh, District Jhunjhunu.

The High Court had specifically recorded in the impugned judgment that the State did not dispute the fact even before the Court that though the subject land in question was classified as 'Johad', it neither fell within any catchment area, nor did water ever collect there and there was no natural water reservoir on the subject land.

Standing Counsel Milind Kumar appeared for the Appellant – State, while Senior Advocate Hiren P. Raval appeared for the Respondent – Company before the Apex Court.

The issue which was dealt with by the Court was –

Once an in-principle consent has already been accorded by the appellant–State Government for reservation and allocation of the subject land under the mining lease in favour of the respondent– Company for it to set up a cement plant and the condition inserted in the approval letter dated 23rd February, 2012 that the respondent–Company should produce a NOC/order from the High Court permitting allocation of 'Gair-Mumkin Johad' ' land stands satisfied by virtue of the impugned judgment, would a challenge still lie against the same at the instance of the appellant–State Government?

The Apex Court noted that both the reports prepared by the Tehsildar, were categorical in their findings that there was no natural body on the subject land classified as 'Johad' and that the subject land neither fell in the catchment area nor did water ever collect there and there was no natural source of water that existed on the subject land.

The Bench further also held that the Respondent – Company had applied through proper channel for allotment of land for mining purpose, it had received requisite environmental clearances followed by Letters of Intent issued by the Appellant – State. Thus, armed with necessary approvals from the State Government for reservation and allocation of land falling under mining lease area, the respondent–Company had approached the revenue authorities for setting up a plant on the subject land and requested that necessary changes be made in the revenue records pertaining to land described as 'Johad' at certain spots, where in fact, no 'Johad' actually existed.

Additionally, the Court also noted, "The respondent–Company has also given undertakings to the High Court that the environment of the village will not be adversely impacted and the ecological balance shall be maintained. One of the undertakings given by the respondent–Company is that the site identified for development of an alternate 'Johad' would be identified and developed in a planned manner, so as to create a catchment area, water harvesting structure and cattle grazing land."

Thus, the Court concurred with the findings returned in the impugned judgment and directed the Appellant – State to take necessary steps to process the allotment of the subject land in favour of the respondent–Company and dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title - The State of Rajasthan & Another v. Ultratech Cement Ltd.

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