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Salem Expressway: HC Gives Thumbs Up for Land Act, Says Compensation Methodology Advantageous

The Rs 10,000 crore eight lane Salem-Chennai expressway has been facing opposition from a section of locals, including farmers over fears of losing their land, besides environmentalists who are opposed to felling of trees for the project.

PTI

Updated:September 4, 2018, 11:19 PM IST
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Salem Expressway: HC Gives Thumbs Up for Land Act, Says Compensation Methodology Advantageous
File photo of Madras High Court.
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Chennai: The Madras High Court Tuesday upheld the constitutional validity of the key provisions of a law under which land acquisition for the Tamil Nadu government's Salem-Chennai expressway was taken up, saying determination of compensation is more advantageous to the land owner.

Dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) by a green non-governmental organisation (NGO), a division bench comprising Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan upheld the constitutional validity of Section 105 and Fourth Schedule of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency (RFCT) in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

G Sundarrajan, one of the trustees of 'Poovulagin Nanbargal' sought declaration of RFCT Act, its Fourth Schedule as well as the entire land acquisition proceedings under the National Highways Act, 1956 in respect of the proposed Green Field Chennai Salem Highway in Tamil Nadu as unconstitutional, and null and void.

The bench in its order said, "If the prayer sought for by the petitioner to declare Section 105 as unconstitutional is granted, the land owners would be gravely prejudiced. This is so because the manner of determination of compensation is more advantageous to the land owner under the RFCT Act."

The National Highways (NH) Act does not provide for the procedure for rehabilitation and resettlement nor setting up of infrastructural facilities as envisaged in Schedule 1, 2 and 3 of the RFCT Act.

"Thus, if Section 105 is struck down, the NH Act will govern the field and the acquisition will proceed under the NH Act and the compensation will have to be determined under the said Act. This undoubtedly would be prejudicial to the interest of the land owners," the bench said.

The court said it failed to understand what benefit would accrue to the land owners by declaring Section 105 as unconstitutional.

The bench also refused to accept the arguments of the petitioner's counsel M Radhakrishan that availability of two sets of procedures (under the RFCT Act and another by NH Act) would by itself not make one of it as discriminatory.
Also, it would not be hit by Article 14 (Right to equality) of the Constitution, the bench said.

On the argument that the same set of land owners were treated differently, the court held that they were in no way prejudiced by inclusion of the 13 enactments in the Fourth Schedule as their interest on compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement had been fully safeguarded as the relevant provision of the RFCT Act has been made applicable to the NH Act.

The bench made it clear that it was not dealing with the validity of acquisition proceedings for the subject "Highway," which is the subject matter of challenge in a batch of writ petitions, but confining itself to the constitutional validity of Section 105 and the Fourth Schedule of the RFCT Act.

The Rs 10,000 crore eight lane Salem-Chennai expressway has been facing opposition from a section of locals, including farmers over fears of losing their land, besides environmentalists who are opposed to felling of trees for the project.
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