Illegal acquisition of nearly 912 acres by private builders in Haryana under a land acquisition process initiated by the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government was set aside by the Supreme Court on March 13. The court slammed the Hooda government, saying such decisions were nothing but “fraud” on power. Ordering an inquiry by the Central Bureau of the investigation, the court directed the state and the Central governments to “recover every single pie” and turn it over to the state government.
The 912 acres of land was acquired between 2004 and 2007 from three villages — Manesar, Lakhnoula, and Naurangpur – to set up an industrial township. After the acquisition was notified, many farmers had sold land at throwaway prices to private builders. The land, the court said, was initially purchased for around Rs. 25 lakh per acre. But as the acquisition process progressed, prices rose to Rs. 80 lakh per acre. The land was finally purchased by DLF Home Developers Ltd. at the rate of Rs.4.5 crore per acre.
The court said that It was not a mere bonanza or a deal, but denoted quid pro quo. But two days before the ward was to be announced in August 2007, the Hooda government canceled the acquisition.
The bench of Justices AK Goel and Uday Lalit said the acquisition was “withdrawn with fraudulent intentions after the land was purchased by the private builders in active connivance with state functionaries”. Further, the entire acquisition proceedings were initiated with “mala fide intention, illegally and in violation of the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act,” the court said.
The top court said records indicate that various entities, including certain “middlemen”, walked away with huge profits. The builders and private entities “were aware that the acquisition would not go through”. Still, landholders were cornered and persuaded into transactions, the court said.
The court, however, said the land would not be returned to the landholders who had received compensation, which was greater than the initial award. Instead, the land would be vested with the Haryana Urban Development Authority and the Haryana Industrial Development Corporation. The builders and private entities will not be entitled to recover any money they paid to landowners, the court said.