Apex court issues notice over unused land in SEZs

SC seeks response from govt, 7 states in 4 weeks

Apex court issues notice over unused land in SEZs

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and seven states, including Karnataka, on a plea seeking direction to return unutilised land to farmers that was acquired for special economic zones (SEZs).

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice J S Khehar sought responses from the Union government, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Punjab within four weeks on the PIL filed by NGO ‘SEZ Farmers Protection Welfare Association’.

The petitioner, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, also sought compensation for keeping the land vacant for a long time and the return of land to tribals, farmers

and other weaker sections of society, for sufferings from the harsh effects of “unnecessary, unmindful and unwarranted land acquisition” by the government in the name of creating SEZs.

The association of farmers, labourers and assigned lands owners under Kakinada Special Economic Zone, in their petition filed by advocate Sravan Kumar, claimed that even after acquisition of land in 2006, the operations had not begun till 2016.

In Tamil Nadu alone, 75 developers of SEZs were granted formal approval. Out of them only 36 are operational, 14 are non-operational and 24 have been cancelled or de-notified.

Most of the land in 84 SEZs, approved in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh by taking over huge land areas belonging to the tribals, Dalits and poor farmers have been unused, it claimed.

In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal, 11 developers had raised Rs 6,309.53 crore of loan through mortgaging SEZ lands. Out of which, three developers had utilised the loan amount Rs 2,211.48 crore, i e 35 %, for the purpose other than the development of SEZ as there was no economic activity there, the petitioner added.

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