|Judge: land taken in and around Bangalore without a thought for the farmer, stay won't be vacated|
BANGALORE: The Karnataka High Court has came down heavily on the State Government and the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) for indiscriminately acquiring agricultural land in and around Bangalore and in the Bangalore urban and rural districts and referred the issue to the Lokayukta for investigation.
Expressing displeasure at the manner of acquisitions in the last five years, the court said the Board officials had thrown all norms to the wind and, in some cases, acquired entire villages.
In a majority of the cases, thousands of acres were acquired without Cabinet approval. Refusing to vacate its March 26 order directing the Board not to acquire agricultural land and not to allot them to industries, Justice Huluvadi G. Ramesh said he would refer the petition to the Chief Justice as the case was more in the nature of a public interest litigation petition. It would be better if the petitions were heard by a Division Bench or a bigger Bench. He, however, permitted land acquisition for the 70-bed hospital and research centre of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences coming up on the outskirts of Bangalore.
`Court has power'
Citing Supreme Court rulings on the jurisdiction of courts in "interfering" with policy decisions, Mr. Justice Ramesh said that in this case there was no coherent policy. The courts could exercise the power of judicial review whenever it came across cases of gross violation of law. The Board had acquired land without sparing a thought for the farmer.
Agricultural land could not be indiscriminately acquired and farmers had a right to livelihood. Unfortunately, both the Government and KIADB had ignored them. Though agriculture was an industry, not much attention had been bestowed on it and the Board was acquiring land for setting up special economic zones.
The Centre was reported to be formulating a new policy on SEZs, and Karnataka's stand would have to change. The Judge said he saw no reason why the Board had to acquire vast farm land even as the Government was set to recover 18,000 acres of encroached land. These could be auctioned and industry could bid for it at the market rate. Industrialists were rich now and they could afford to buy land. When this is the case, why should the Government subsidise land, he asked.
A perusal of the files of the Board and the Department of Commerce and Industries showed that "all is not fair" and that there was violation of the Town and Country Planning Act. As several other norms had been violated, Mr. Justice Ramesh said this could be examined by an independent agency such as the Lokayukta.