Chennai Metro Phase II in Trouble

The order could stall several projects, including phase two of Chennai Metro Rail for which land was acquired under one of the impugned Acts

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CHENNAI (Metro Rail News): In a judgment with wide-ranging implications for development and infrastructure projects in Tamil Nadu, a division bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday declared acquisition of all land since September 2013 under three state laws as illegal. The court, however, has exempted lands “which have already been put to use and the purpose for which the land was acquired has been accomplished”.

Senior government officials told that the order could stall several projects, including phase two of Chennai Metro Rail for which land was acquired under one of the impugned Acts. 

It is therefore likely that the government would either go in for a review or appeal against the order. There is also a chance that land acquisition could be put in abeyance and an amendment passed, one senior official said.

The bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad has held that three state laws — the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Scheme Act, 1978, TN Highways Act, 2001, and the TN Industrial Purposes Act, 1997 — became null and void once the President assented to the Centre’s Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act on September 27, 2013.

“Consequently, all the acquisitions made under the three impugned enactments made on or after September 2013, are to be held illegal and quashed, save those lands which had already been put to use and the purpose for which the land was acquired has been accomplished,” judges said.

The State had attempted to “save” these laws by enacting Section 105 (a) of the New Act, however, the court held that the laws had already fallen null and void by then and could only be “revived” as fresh laws. 

The bench was passing orders on a batch of over 100 writ petitions challenging the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (TN Amendment Act) 2014 (TN Act 1 of 2015) and demanding the show cause notices issued under sub-section (2) of Sec. (3) of the TN Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purpose Act 1997 (Tamil Nadu Act 10 of 1999), be declared as null and void.

While the bench rejected the petitioners’ contention that the President had failed to apply his mind while granting assent, it said that the writ petitioners ultimately succeed because Article 254(1), by its operation, rendered the impugned State legislation repugnant and null and void as on the date on which the Centre’s Land Act was made, i.e. September 27, 2013.

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