New Delhi: Land acquired by Government or its instrumentalities for a specific public purpose cannot be changed and transferred to private individuals or corporate bodies, the Supreme Court has held.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya said though Government enjoys power of “eminent domain” to compulsorily acquire any land for public purpose, yet,it cannot legitimize any fraudulent act of the authorities.
“The Courts have repeatedly held that in exercise of its power of eminent domain, the State can compulsorily acquire land of the private persons but this proposition cannot be over-stretched to legitimize a patently illegal and fraudulent exercise undertaken for depriving the landowners of their constitutional right to property with a view to favour private persons,” Justice Singhvi writing the judgement said.
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal of certain corporate houses challenging the Karnataka High Court’s decision to quash the acquisition proceedings of over 37 acres of land in south Bangalore.
The Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation had acquired the private land through the State Government for the ostensible purpose of a Golf-cum-Hotel Resort. However, instead of constructing the resort, it chose to transfer the land to a private real estate developer for a group housing project; and also other corporate houses.
Aggrieved by the decision, the private land owners approached the high court which quashed the acquisition proceedings and directed that the land be restored to the original owners. The land owners were also asked to return the compensation received by them at the time of acquisition.
The corporate houses appealed in the apex court.