Apex court rules rehabilitation for uprooted farmers

Inaction will trigger anti-national activities

The Supreme Court has said that in a welfare state, authorities were duty bound to rehabilitate people, whose land has been acquired, after paying due compensation otherwise the uprooted could indulge in anti-national activities.

A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and J S Khehar said it was not allowed to a state to deprive a citizen of his land for industrial development.

“In a welfare State, statutory authorities are bound, not only to pay adequate compensation, but there is also a legal obligation upon them to rehabilitate such persons. The non-fulfillment of their obligations would be tantamount to forcing the said uprooted persons to become vagabonds or to indulge in anti-national activities as such sentiments would be born in them on account of such ill-treatment. Therefore, it is not permissible for any welfare State to uproot a person and deprive him of his fundamental/constitutional/human rights, under the garb of industrial development,” the Bench said.

The court passed its observations while expressing its shock over the government’s failure to pay compensation to Tukaram Kana Joshi and others of district Thane for their land acquired for Ulhas Khore project of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation in 1964.

“The appellants have been deprived of their legitimate dues for about half a century. In such a fact-situation, we fail to understand for which class of citizens, the Constitution provides guarantees and rights in this regard and what is the exact percentage of the citizens of this country, to whom constitutional/statutory benefits are accorded, in accordance with the law,” the Bench remarked. The Bombay High Court had in 2011 rejected their claim for compensation on the grounds of delay and the non-availability of certain documents. The court said though, it is true that there are a few authorities that lay down that delay and laches debar a citizen from seeking remedy, even if his fundamental right has been violated, under Article 32 or 226 of the Constitution, the case at hand deals with a different scenario altogether as claimants were “illiterate, inarticulate poor farmers”.

“The authorities have treated the land owner as a ‘subject’ of medieval India, but not as a ‘citizen’ under our Constitution,” the court said.

Condoning delay

The Bench further said that the high court was required to exercise judicial discretion in the case and condoned delay as appellants pursued their case persistently.

“The appellants have been seriously discriminated against qua other persons, whose land was also acquired. Some of them were given the benefits of acquisition, including compensation in the year 1966. This kind of discrimination not only breeds corruption, but also disrespect for governance, as it leads to frustration and to a certain extent, forces persons to take the law into their own hands,” the court added.

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