The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to decide within a month an application filed by Godrej & Boyce company seeking enhancement of compensation awarded to it for acquisition of its land in suburban Vikhroli for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
A division bench of Justices B P Colabawala and M M Sathaye was hearing a petition filed by the company seeking a direction to the Mumbai suburban district collector and the deputy collector (land acquisition) to make a reference to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority on the company’s application seeking enhancement of compensation.
The bench directed the state government authorities concerned to decide on the company’s application within 30 days.
The company and the government have been embroiled in a legal dispute over acquisition of the company-owned land in Vikhroli area of Mumbai for the bullet train project since 2019.
Godrej’s contention was that initially the compensation was decided to be Rs 572 crore, but when the final award was passed, the compensation amount was reduced to Rs 264 crore.
The company is now seeking enhancement of the compensation amount to Rs 993 crore.
In February this year, the high court dismissed a petition filed by the company challenging the acquisition proceedings. The HC then also said it was open for the company to seek enhancement of the compensation awarded to it.
The company challenged the HC order dismissing its plea in the Supreme Court. The apex court upheld the HC order, but said the issue of enhancement of compensation shall be decided within a period of six months.
Godrej in its petition said it filed an application in February 2023 before the collector and deputy collector (land acquisition) requesting them to make a reference to the LARR Authority for enhancement of compensation.
However, the collector did not take any action.
In April 2023, the company filed an application before the LARR Authority seeking a direction to the collector to make a reference. The LARR Authority, however, dismissed the application, noting it cannot direct the collector to make a reference.
Godrej then filed a petition in the HC challenging the collector and deputy collector’s inaction, claiming the same was “absolutely arbitrary, manifestly unreasonable and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”.
It claimed the state authorities were deliberately delaying the issue and flouting the Supreme Court’s order.
“The inaction on part of the respondent authorities constitutes a clear case of abdication of powers and functions vested in them. The inaction is completely arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious,” the plea said.
Of the total 508.17 kilometres of rail track for the bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is planned to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land in Vikhroli (owned by Godrej).