HC stays acquisition of small piece of land for Avinashi Road elevated highway

Land belongs to a private advertising firm which complained of procedural irregularities

The Madras High Court on Wednesday restrained the Land Acquisition Officer-cum-District Revenue Officer of Coimbatore South from proceeding with the acquisition of a small piece of 65.9 square metres of land belonging to a private advertising firm as part of a much larger acquisition planned for constructing a 10.10 km elevated highway on the Avinashi Road in Coimbatore city.

A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and A.A. Nakkiran made it clear that the interim order would be restricted only to the land owned by Sasi Advertising Private Limited which had approached the court with a writ petition against the acquisition of its land and that the order would be in operation only till June 22 by when the officials must file a counter affidavit.

The advertising firm had challenged a land acquisition notification published in a Tamil daily on February 13. It said the notification had been issued under the Tamil Nadu Highways Act of 2001 read with Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act of 2019 but the officials had failed to follow procedure contemplated under Section 15(2) of the 2001 Act.

According to Section 15(2), the government should, before publishing the land acquisition notice, call upon the individual landowners to show cause as to why their lands should not be acquired. Senior counsel C. Manishankar, representing the advertising firm, claimed that no such show cause notice was issued to the petitioner and hence the entire proceedings suffer from procedural irregularities.

Concurring with him, the judges said that the submissions made by the counsel prima facie disclose non- adherence to procedure contemplated under the law. Referring to Article 300A of the Constitution which states that no person could be deprived of his/her property save by authority of law, the judges said it was imperative to follow the due process of law in land acquisition matters.

Though the petitioner firm had prayed for staying all further proceedings pursuant to the land acquisition notification published in the newspaper on February 13 for acquiring huge tracts of land belonging to various individuals, the judges restricted the interim stay only with respect to the petitioner’s land.

Special Correspondent from Coimbatore adds:

K. Kathirmathiyon, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause, said there may be a few people who will have grievances related to acquisition of their land. This should not become a reason to suspend the project. If the project is stalled now, only the public will face problems as works are going on. "If the project is delayed or stopped, the consumer organisation will also approach the court with a public interest litigation as it the works are related to the people of Coimbatore and not just a few individuals. The project hence, should not be affected at any cost. However, the grievances of the land owners should be addressed," he said.

An official of the Highways Department said that of the 306 foundation pillars for the main carriageway for the Avinashi Road flyover, works were on for nearly one-third of it. This work was on the Highways road and not on any private land. Hence, it would continue.

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