Gujarat High Court Upholds Land Grabbing Act, Including Retrospective Provisions

The Gujarat High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of the Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020, dismissing over 100 petitions that had challenged the law. The Act, effective from August 29, 2020, aims to curb land grabbing activities in Gujarat and includes provisions that apply retrospectively.

Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee found no substantial grounds to deem the law unconstitutional. They addressed concerns about potential conflicts with central laws like the Limitation Act, 1963, and the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, stating that the Gujarat law does not contradict these established frameworks. The Court also rejected claims that the law might infringe upon the Constitution’s Article 254, which addresses inconsistencies between state and central laws, noting that the Act did not require presidential assent.

Additionally, the Court dismissed arguments that the Act’s application was arbitrary or that it violated the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Constitution. They emphasized that the provisions of the Act are rational and align with its objective to prevent land grabbing. The bench further supported the legislative wisdom in prescribing a minimum sentence of 10 years for land grabbing, asserting that the severity of the punishment is justified by the legislative intent to deter such offenses effectively.

The Court also refuted the petitioners’ challenges based on the retrospective application of the Act and the intent required for committing the offense (mens rea). It compared the Gujarat legislation to similar laws in Assam, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, noting that such provisions have been upheld in these states as well.

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After delivering the verdict, the bench declined a request from advocate Megha Jani, representing some petitioners, to extend interim relief that stayed proceedings on FIRs filed under the Act until July 30. The Supreme Court is set to reopen on July 8, but the Gujarat High Court’s decision now allows for the continuation of legal actions under the Act without further delay.

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