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Lesson for Narendra Modi from Akhilesh Yadav: How UP govt acquired land for the Rs 15,000 crore expressway without rebellion

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

As the debate over the land acquisition bill is gaining momentum across the country, the Uttar Pradesh government led by the Samajwadi Party (SP) has acquired nearly 3,000 hectares of fertile land for its six-lane Agra-Lucknow greenfield expressway project, which is worth Rs 15,000 crore, without any opposition.

According to a report in The Times of India (TOI), “While the farmer groups vehemently protested against the alleged dilution of the consent clause in the central government’s land ordinance, around 30,074 farmers in UP gave up their fertile tracts of the Indo-Gangetic plain, willingly.”

UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), the nodal agency for implementing the project said that they avoided the ‘acquisition’ process entirely. “Instead of acquiring land as is usually done, it was decided to purchase land from farmers through a mutual agreement. To make the transaction more lucrative, land owners were offered four times the circle rates (CR) in rural areas, and twice the CR in urban parts, as purchase cost. Acquisition was only considered in cases where mutual agreement failed,” Navneet Sehgal, chief executive, UPEIDA told TOI.

To build this flagship 302 kms expressway by October 2016, the state government needs 3,368.60 hectares of land across 232 revenue villages from Agra to Lucknow and passing through districts of Mainpuri, Etawah, Kannauj, Auraiyya and Unnao. Between June 2014 and January 2015, UPEIDA completed about 27,000 registries at the rate of about 10 in a day.

To build the longest express in the country, UPEIDA paid, till May 15, 2015, Rs 2,844.55 crore to make a purchase of 2,824.16 hectares of land from individual land owners and 303.29 hectares from government departments, almost 93% of the total land it needed.

Speaking to TOI, assistant CEO UPEIDA, Ashutosh Dubey said, “The government set up rate fixation committees under the chairmanship of the district magistrate to arrive at a mutually agreeable rate. After the approval of the CEO, land owners were given four times, or twice the CR depending on the location of their land. Apart from their land holdings, owners were also compensated for permanent structures built on their land, and for unharvested crops.”

Jagdamba Singh, a resident of Matariya village who gave up his land through a mutual agreement with the state government told TOI, “My village was on the Unnao-Lucknow border, but on the Unnao side. My compensation, as a result, was paid according to the prevailing DM circle rates in Unnao. The neighbouring village that falls in Lucknow, however, received a higher compensation.”

In Etawah’s Takha tehsil, Bakridan received a compensation of  Rs 8.91 lakh for selling 2.5 bighas of land held in her name. Her son, Naseem Khan told TOI, “We used about Rs 98,000 for a wedding in the family. We are also in advanced stages of talks over the purchase of additional agriculture land with the compensation money we received.”

In some cases where the landholders did not agree to sell their lands, the government used the land acquisition process as prescribed under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. The rate of compensation was same, but the beneficiaries were offered an extra payment at an interest rate prescribed within the state’s rules.

“Since the state’s purchase-acquisition process started in June last year, UPEIDA now has a land pool of 3,287.73 hectares of the 3,368.60 hectares it needed; that’s 97.6% of the land it needed, organized in less than one year. The success of the Agra-Lucknow “expressway” model of acquiring land through mutual agreements and through the acquisition route has now been extended to other construction projects as well. “It is a smoother, faster process. More significantly, though, farmers and land holders get a much better deal for their land than they would if we went the acquisition way. That would have been also much more time-consuming,” said Dubey.

The expressway project has given an opportunity to Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav to showcase the development work in his state. With his government being under the heavy scrutiny of the media, this will evoke good press for Yadav and his government. As the expressway will reduce travel time between Delhi and Lucknow, the trade and industrial activities are expected to thrive. As the hue and cry for the land acquisition bill continues, the UP government dodged a bullet as they were successful in claiming the necessary land without any rebellion from villagers or the opposition parties.

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CJI faces revolt from four senior most SC judges

The four judges -- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar -- released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago

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Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
  • The sudden revolt against Chief Justice of India (CJI) by the four senior-most judges of Supreme Court has sent the whole judicial system into an uproar.
  • The four judges accused the CJI of corruption and breaches in a surprise Press Conference.
  • Judge Loya’s death’s controversy, supposedly, sparked this reaction out of the other judges.

Divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior-most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches, with one of them pointing to the plea regarding the mysterious death of Special CBI judge B. H. Loya.

The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI's corruption. Pixabay
The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI’s corruption. Pixabay

At a hurriedly called press conference at his residence, Justice J. Chelameswar and three other colleagues said the Supreme Court administration was “not in order” and their efforts to persuade Justice Misra even this morning “with a specific request” failed, forcing them to “communicate with the nation” directly.

The four judges — Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar — released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was “not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues”.

Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Judge Loya, Justice Gogoi said: “Yes.”

Judge Loya's death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay
Judge Loya’s death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay

Judge Loya, who was hearing a case relating to the killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an alleged fake shootout in which BJP chief Amit Shah was named an accused (later discharged), died of cardiac arrest in 2014. His family has raised doubts over the circumstances in which Judge Loya died and have sought an independent probe into it.

Plea’s seeking probe came up for a hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday when the top court expressed concerns over it and said it was a “serious issue”. It asked the Maharashtra government to produce all the documents related to the case before January 15.

In a seven-page letter, the four judges said they were not mentioning details of the cases only to avoid embarrassing the institution because “such departures have already damaged the images of this institution to some extent”.

The clash among the judges in the highest court also comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which Justice Misra declared that the Chief Justice “is the master of the roster” having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.

The CJI called himself 'master of roster' further enraging other judges. Pixabay
The CJI called himself ‘master of the roster’ further enraging other judges. Pixabay

The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into a corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the four judges contended that there were well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice in dealing with the strength of the bench required or the composition thereof.

“A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed,” they wrote in the letter.

They said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to “unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution” but would create “chaos”.

The four judges also touched upon another controversial issue, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on the appointment of judges over which the Supreme Court had locked horns with the government.

The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com
The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com

The government, the letter said, had not responded to the communication and “in view of this silence it must be taken that the MoP has been accepted by the government on the basis of the order of this court”.

Justice Chelameswar told the media that they were “convinced that unless this institution is protected and maintains its requirements, democracy will not survive in the country or any country… The hallmark of a democracy is independent and impartial judges.

“Since all our efforts failed… Even this morning, on a particular issue, we went and met the Chief Justice with a specific request. Unfortunately, we could not convince him that we were right.”

Justice Gogoi said they were “discharging the debt to the nation that has got us here”.

The government appeared to distance itself from the controversy, saying the judges should sort the issue themselves.

Minister of State for Law P. Chaudhary said: “Our judiciary is one of the known, recognised judiciaries in the world. It is an independent judiciary. At this stage, I think no agency is required to intervene or interfere. The Chief Justice and other members should sit together and resolve. There is no question of panic.”

the matter should be resolved among the judges themselves, says P. Chaudhary.

The Supreme Court split had an immediate political fallout, with CPI leader D. Raja saying after meeting Justice Chelameswar that Parliament will have to devise methods to sort out problems like this in the top judiciary.

Two judges, Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, are understood to have called on Justice Chelameswar. IANS