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Put land to original use or return it: SC

If the acquired land cannot be used for the stated purpose, it must be returned to its original land owners, it added.

Holding that land is a scarce natural resource, a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel said there could be no objection to acquisition of land for a compelling public purpose or for regulated development of colonies.

“But entertaining an application for releasing land in favour of the builder who comes into the picture after acquisition notification and release of land to such a builder is tantamount to acquisition for a private purpose. It amounts to transfer of resources of poor for the benefit of the rich. It amounts to permitting profiteering at the cost of the livelihood and existence of a farmer,” the bench said.

“This is against the philosophy of the Constitution and in violation of guaranteed fundamental rights of equality and right to property and to life. What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly also,” the bench added.

The court also said if after initiation of acquisition, the process is not completed, land must revert to the owner and not to others, directly or indirectly. The court was dealing with acquisition of over 800 acres of land between 2003 and 2005 in Rohtak by the Haryana government for residential and commercial properties by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).

However, the state government subsequently released a major chunk of land to real estate developer Uddar Gagan Properties Ltd to develop a colony. “When the land sought to be acquired for a public purpose is allowed to be transferred to private persons, any administrative action or private transaction could be held to be vitiated by fraud. There is no legal sanction for such action,” the apex court said.

The court modified the Punjab and Haryana HC’s order, which quashed the entirety of the acquisition. It directed HUDA to take possession of all land and quashed the release order granted in favour of the builder, who was allowed to claim reimbursement.

What the court said

Transferring land acquired for housing to builder amounts to profiteering
It is tantamount to transfer of resources of poor for benefit of the rich
Violation of fundamental rights of equality and right to property
No objection to acquisition of land for a compelling public purpose

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