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Gujarat High Court bullet train judgment dubbed bad in law, spirit, undesirable

By Our Representative
Well-known environmentalist and human rights activist Rohit Prajapati, in a “quick comment” on the Gujarat High Court's Judgment on the acquisition of land for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet 508 km-long Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, has said that the judgment dated September 19, is “bad in law, spirit and undesirable”.
Prajapati, who was one of the top activists who represented before the Japanese funders of the project, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) expressing concern over the manner in which farmers were allegedly sought to be evicted, regretted that the judgment “reads like a recording of the proceeding and at the end opinion of the court and not like a well-conceived comprehensive judicial order.
According to him, “Crucial principles of the law of the land, legal and other issues raised in the Petition are not dealt within proper legal framework, either in letter or in spirit”, adding, “Acritical and complex matter has been narrowed down to simple opinion by the court without a sound basis, critical examination of all the facts, factors, democratic process of decision making, social and environmental impacts.”
Prajapati, who heads the Vadodara-based environmental organization, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, believes, “All in all, the judgment not only sets a bad precedent, but also has severe and grave impacts as well as short and long-term consequences for the project affected people, justice and the environment (including biodiversity).”
Rohit Prajapati
In what has been interpreted as a setback to farmers in Gujarat, the High Court on September 20, junked more than a 100 petitions challenging the land acquisition process for the ambitious bullet train project on grounds of “inadequate” compensation. In their petitions, farmers had challenged the Gujarat government’s notification for the acquisition of their land, contending that the State had no power to acquire land for a multi-state project like that of the bullet train.
The bench, consisting of Justices Anant Dave and Biren Vaishnav, upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act, amended by the Gujarat government in 2016, and declined to entertain the petitions challenging the land acquisition for project. Gujarat government sources said, the judgment clears a major hurdle in the way of the ambitious project.
According to them, by upholding the validity of the Gujarat amendment of 2016 to the Centre’s land acquisition law, the High Court recognized that it is a multi-state project, but the Centre has executive powers, which have been given to the state government, to acquire land. Before the amendment, the court noted, the state had no such power, but things changed in 2016.
The court also rejected the farmers’ plea for conducting social impact assessment (SIA), justifying the state’s move to the skip mandatory provisions, which were part of the 2013 Central law. It justified the SIA process carried out under JICA guidelines as “appropriate and satisfactory.”
An estimated 5,000 of the total 6,900 farmers affected by the project are said to have registered objections to the land acquisition process initiated by state authorities.About 1,000 farmers, while the hearing was ongoing, had filed a one-page affidavit registering their objection on the land acquisition process, demanding the nature of compensation should be aligned with the Centre’s land acquisition law.

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