SC pulls up Gujarat Minister Anandiben on land deal

SC pulls up Gujarat Minister Anandiben on land deal

The Supreme Court today pulled up Gujarat Revenue Minister and a trusted aide of Narendra Modi, Anandiben Patel for illegally giving permission to sell agricultural land to a company, saying "she has ignored that howsoever high you may be, the law is above you".

A bench of justices H L Gokhale and J Chelameswar also raised question on how she overruled objections of secretaries on land deal and gave permission without giving any reason. It said the minister "failed to pay respect" to the mandate of the legislature which represents the people.

"She has simply brushed aside the objections of the secretaries merely because the Chief Minister’s secretary had written a letter, and because she was the minister concerned. While overruling the opinion of secretaries to the concerned department, the Minister was expected to give some reasons in support of the view she was taking.

"No such reason has come on record in her file notings. She has ignored that howsoever high you may be, the law  is above you," the bench said.

It observed that Revenue Secretary and the Chief Secretary had placed the statutory provisions on record and it was also expected of the Government and the Minister to take cognizance of apprehensions of farmers as well as the statutory provisions brought to her notice.

The controversy was around 40 acre agricultural land in Kutch district which were purchased by one Indigold Refinery Limited of Mumbai, for industrial purpose but it failed to set up the project within the stipulated three-year period.

The company then sold the land to Alumina Refinery which is not allowed as the state law provides that the land shall vest in the State Government on payment of appropriate compensation to the purchaser which the Collector will determine.

The Revenue Minister allowed the re-sale of the land despite objections raised by Secretaries.

A PIL was filed in Gujarat High Court against the government order but it was dismissed by the court.

The petitioner then approached the Supreme Court which set aside the HC order but allowed Alumina Refinery to continue with the project on payment of Rs 3.15 crores to state government within three months. 

The bench also said that all the agricultural land be not allowed for industrial purposes as large part of the population is still dependent on agriculture.

"Before we conclude, we may observe that India is essentially a land of villages. Although, urbanization and industrialization is taking place, the industry has not developed sufficiently, and large part of our population is still required to depend on agriculture for sustenance.

"Lands are, therefore, required to be retained for agricultural purposes. They are also required to be protected from the damage of industrial pollution," the bench said.

Development should not be measured merely in terms of growth of gross domestic product, but it should be in terms of utility to the community and the society in general, it observed.

"There is a certain inbuilt wisdom in the statute which is the mandate of the legislature which represents the people. The Minister has clearly failed to pay respect to the same," it said.

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