In a major boost to the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the decks for the ambitious multi-crore six-way Yamuna Expressway Project linking Greater Noida to Agra by upholding its decision to acquire 1,604 hecatres of private land.
A Bench of Justices V S Sirpurkar and Cyriac Joseph dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by aggrieved land owners who challenged the acquisition as a "colourable exercise of power" to benefit a private company J.P. Infratech Ltd and that there was no public purpose involved.
The apex court concurred with the findings of the Allahabad High Court that the project would benefit millions of people, which was more paramount than the interest of a few aggrieved individuals whose shops, business establishments and houses would have to be demolished to make way for the project.
"The Expressway is a work of immense public importance. The state gains advantages from the construction of an Expressway and so does the general public. Creation of a corridor for fast moving traffic resulting in curtailing of travel time as also transport of goods would be some factors which speak in favour of the project being for the public purpose.
"There can be no doubt that the implementation of the project would result in coming into existence of five developed parcels/centres in the state for the use of the citizens. There shall, thus, be the planned development of this otherwise industrially backward area," Justice Sirpurkar, writing the judgment, said.
The apex court said the UP government adopted complete transparency in acquiring the land and justified the state's decision to invoke the "urgency clause" under Section 17(1) and 17(4) of the Act to acquire the land.
The clause empowers the government to acquire any private land without resorting to the mandatory provision provided under Section 5A which stipulates that land owners should be given a hearing before the acquisition.
"We must say that there was a full transparency in the whole process and the whole process was checked, rechecked and re-rechecked, leaving no scope to infer any bias in favour of the company.
"We are not much impressed by this argument in view of the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this is an acquisition for the company, basically on account of the fact that the acquired land is not to vest with the company. This was clearly a project conceived and justified by the state government, while the concessionaire was to be chosen only to implement the project," the Bench said.