The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday temporarily stayed an Adani group's joint venture project with the state government for building a 1500 MW solar energy park near Pokhran in Jaisalmer. A Jodhpur bench of the high court, while staying the project, also sought the Rajasthan government's stand on a petition by local farmers challenging the allocation of nearly 990 hectares of agricultural land to the private business house for executing the solar energy project.
The bench of justices Sangeet Lodha and Rameshwar Vyas also sought the stand of project executant Adani Renewable Energy Park Rajasthan Limited on the farmers' petition and ordered status quo over the project land and slated September 29 for further hearing of the petition. The bench slated September 29 for the next hearing on Rajasthan Additional Advocate General Rekha Borana's plea for two weeks to file a reply to the petition.
Status quo has to be maintained in connection with the land allocated to the project executants, said the bench, while also seeking the Adani business group's stand on the farmers' petition, challenging the high court's single-judge bench order, giving a go-ahead to the project. The Rajasthan government had in 2018 allocated a total of 6,115 bighas (989.50 hectares) land in Nedan village of Pokhran tehsil to AREPRL for executing a 1500 MW solar energy power project at the cost of Rs 13.48 crore.
The allocation of the land has been challenged by Nedan villagers, questioning the allotment of the agricultural land for the power project after changing the nature of the land to barren one, said petitioners' counsel Moti Singh Rajpurohit. Rajpurohit said the land had been allotted to the company in violation of many laws and bye-laws in January 2018 for the establishment of the solar energy park.
We have argued that as per the Rajasthan Land Revenue Rules 2007, the land could be allotted only to Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation or Rajasthan Solar Park Development Corporation and not to any private player or investor directly, said Rajpurohit. Besides this, the land in question was also specified as cultivable land in revenue records but the Revenue Department changed the nature of the land to barren through an executive order on May 30, 2017, giving sanction for the allotment of the land for the establishment of the solar energy park.
We objected to this alteration in the specification as illegal. As per the allotment rules, a land reserved for some purpose and that too cultivable, could not be allotted for any other purpose, said Rajpurohit, asserting that this entire 6115 bigha of land was neither waste land nor barren and the petitioners had been cultivating this land for ages. Despite this, the RREC sent a recommendation for allotment of the land for setting up of solar plant in violation of the Rajasthan Land Revenue (Allotment of Land for Agriculture Purposes) Rules 1970, in 2015. The petitioner also challenged the allotment of the land for executing a power project contending that it will have a fatal impact on the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the state bird of Rajasthan. Since the land in question is adjacent to village Rasla known as Rasla Park, reserved for the conservation of the GIB, the project would harm the efforts for conservation of the bird, Rajpurohit said.