Land Owners Must Be Compensated For National Highway Project In Sundargarh: Orissa HC Tells NHAI

Cuttack: The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) must come up with a fresh timeline for completing the land acquisition process for the construction of a 3-km road as part of NH-23 in Sundargarh district by July 14, the Orissa High Court has ruled.

The court further said the process can be completed only after determining and disbursing compensation to the present owners of the land that NHAI wants to acquire.

The ruling came while a bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice KR Mohapatra was hearing a bunch of petitions by the land owners against a notification by NHAI for acquiring their land without compensation.

Land Owners’ Plea

Nine persons had moved the HC challenging the NHAI’s notification. The petitioners claimed that they were in possession of the land on which they had constructed buildings and had record of rights (RoRs) in their names.

The court has taken up seven of the petitions so far and passed interim stay orders on any further demolition since January this year.

NHAI’s Contention

In an affidavit to the court, the NHAI said the land presently occupied by the petitioners were in fact acquired by the Odisha government in 1959 and were subsequently sold by the erstwhile land owners to the present occupants.

Pay Compensation: HC

But the court was not impressed by the NHAI’s contention. “The fact, however, remains that the NHAI proceeded on the basis of that the said land belonged to the petitioners and therefore, started a fresh acquisition process under the National Highways Act by issuing a notification on August 23, 2013,” the bench was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.

“Till that process of acquisition stands completed by determining and paying compensation payable to the petitioners, they cannot be expected to surrender possession of the lands in question,” the bench added.

The court allowed the NHAI’s counsel time till July 14, the next date of hearing, to take instruction on how soon the competent authority will be able to complete the task of determining and disbursing the compensation.

Case History

The government had acquired around 30.13 acres of land at Jamunanaki, Lungei and Gopapali villages in Sundargarh’s Lathikata tehsil in 1959. The road was constructed on some portions of the acquired land, but the government never took physical possession of over the rest of nearly 20 acres. As a result, RoRs of the land continued in the owners’ names.

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