Godrej & Boyce loses plea in bullet train land dispute | Mint
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Business News/ News / India/  Godrej & Boyce loses plea in bullet train land dispute
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Godrej & Boyce loses plea in bullet train land dispute

However, the bench, which also comprised justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, said Godrej & Boyce should pursue its remedies under the law for the enhancement of compensation instead of fighting the acquisition

The apex court observed that the project is of national importance and should not be delayed on account of a dispute (HT_PRINT)Premium
The apex court observed that the project is of national importance and should not be delayed on account of a dispute (HT_PRINT)

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd’s appeal against the Maharashtra government’s acquisition of its Vikhroli land for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The apex court observed that the project is of national importance and should not be delayed on account of a dispute concerning the compensation given to a party for the acquisition of their land.

“We will give you the liberty to file a claim for additional compensation, and we will set a deadline to determine that application...this is all about money...But this is a national project we are talking about," a bench headed by Chief Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud told senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for the company.

Rohatgi, on his part, complained that the state government had initially offered 572 crore for the land acquisition, whereas what they finally paid up was only 264 crore.

However, the bench, which also comprised justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, said Godrej & Boyce should pursue its remedies under the law for the enhancement of compensation instead of fighting the acquisition.

“Much water has flown; possession has already been taken over; the project is being constructed...you are also a responsible company. Giving [ 572 crore] at gunpoint by the Supreme Court will have adverse effects...we cannot do that now," added the bench.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Maharashtra government and National High Speed Rail Corp. Ltd, submitted that the delay has significantly raised the project cost, and a spat over compensation should not let a project of national importance get impacted. He added that the company was responsible for the project’s delay, resulting in an additional cost of 1,000 crore.

The SC order said: “We are not inclined to intervene. If any application for enhancement of compensation is submitted, then let it be decided within six weeks."

The state government and the company have been embroiled in a legal dispute since 2019 over acquiring the company’s land in Vikhroli for the bullet train project. Of the total 508.17 km of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land at Vikhroli, owned by the company. In September, the state government went ahead with acquiring the land in question and awarded a compensation of 264 crore in lieu of it.

Godrej & Boyce challenged this award before the Bombay high court, which dismissed the plea, holding that national importance took precedence over private interests. “The private interest claimed by the petitioner does not prevail over the public interest which would subserve infrastructural project of public importance which is a dream project of this country and first of its kind," said the high court, adding that the company’s petition is devoid of merit. The high court held that there was no illegality in the award or the decision taken by the appropriate government under the pertinent provisions of the Fair Compensation Act.

The estimated cost for this project is around 1.08 trillion, and so far, an amount of more than 32,000 crore has been expended by the NHSRCL towards its implementation. Approximately 430 hectares are required for the project, out of which, as of November 2022, 97% is already acquired.

For the underground section between Bandra Kurla Complex and Thane, all the land parcels required are already in possession of the NHSRCL, except the petitioner’s (Godrej & Boyce’s) land, the court observed. From the ecological point of view, “the government would undertake to plant over 110,000 mangrove saplings in between the piers to be installed in the mangrove area along with other safeguards as set out in the permissions/approvals", the high court further noted in its 9 February order.

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Published: 24 Feb 2023, 11:24 PM IST
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