HC halts land acquisition for Ring Road

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, June 9: As the notification for acquisition of land issued in 2017 has lapsed, the High Court has put on halt the process of land acquisition for construction of the Semi Ring Road (SSR) and directed the parties to maintain status quo with regard to the nature and possession of the land in question.
The land owners of various villages in district Budgam through Senior Advocate M Y Bhat have approached the court with the pleas that the notification issued in June 2017 has not been initiated and proceeded strictly by the local authorities in tune with the provisions of Land Acquisition Act and neither possession of the land was taken nor any compensation was paid to them under Section 17 of the said Act.
The proceedings in terms of the notification of 2017 elapsed by the efflux of time and due to coming into force the J&K Re-organization Act 2019 in the J&K UT, the land owners are now entitled to compensation for land acquisition under Central Act
The land owners argued before the court that it is not possible for them to individually approach the Court; as such, the court allowed them to pursue their case in representative capacity.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice V C Koul until further orders directed the land owners and the authorities to maintain status quo with regard to the nature and possession of the land in dispute.
The DB issued notice to Secretary Revenue, District Development Commissioners of Srinagar, Budgam, Bandipora, Pulwama, Collectors of Land Acquisition Budgam, Srinagar, Bandipora and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to respond to the contentions of the villagers.
Court directed the Government counsel to seek instruction from these authorities as to why the land acquisition notification has lapsed and asked him to file counter affidavit in this connection within six weeks.
The notification was issued under J&K Land Acquisition Act and now has no relevance as the said Act has been abolished and repealed in terms of J&K Re-organization Act 2019. It was under the decision of NHAI that the construction and establishment of Semi Ring Road from Pampore via some areas of Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Bandipora districts up to Sonawari Bandipora was approved under the name of Semi Ring Road.
In this regard, NHAI has been given authority to acquire land in the J&K UT for construction of National Highway roads and the said authority took a decision that land owners in J&K UT whose land is required to be acquired for construction of Semi Ring Road shall be paid compensation at the same rate as applied by the Central Act.
The local authorities have been appointed by the NHAI to acquire the land and as per the land owners, while issuing the initial notification these authorities have not adopted the procedure as prescribed in the provision of law and in gross violations of the provisions of law these authorities initiated proceedings and prepared papers without following the mandate of law.
The authorities as such are bound to initiate proceedings afresh under the Central Act which till date has not been undertaken as such cannot interfere with the possession of the land in question till fresh acquisition proceedings are initiated by the authorities concerned.
The land owners submitted that field agencies are interfering with the possession of the land in question without initiating the fresh process of land acquisition as the earlier one has elapsed by the afflux of time as also coming into force the Central Act in 2019.