Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd has contended that the proceeding initiated by the Maharashtra government for acquiring its prime land in suburban Vikhroli for the Ahmedabad- Mumbai Bullet Train project was “unlawful” and bad in law.
In a detailed affidavit filed by Godrej before the Bombay High Court by its vice president and HOD (Legal) Gauri Gandhi has refuted the allegations by the government and National High-Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) that the company was responsible for delaying the project.
Also, it has disputed the compensation amount of Rs 264 crore awarded by the Deputy Collector (Land Acquisition) on September 15, 2022, stating that it is a meagre amount compared to Rs 572 crore offered to the company for the acquisition of the land.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sharmila Deshmukh was hearing an amended petition filed by Godrej challenging the compensation of Rs 264 crore contending that the proceedings lapsed after the last hearing in 2020. The compensation was awarded on Sep 15, 2022. It had prayed in its application that the HC direct the state government to not proceed towards the award passed and initiation of possession proceedings.
In its reply affidavit filed last month, the government filed an affidavit alleging that the business house, among the country’s oldest, has been delaying the acquisition process, costing the exchequer crores of rupees and escalating the project cost by more than Rs1,000 crore.
Godrej filed a rejoinder affidavit terming the land acquisition proceedings as “unlawful” and further claimed that it had committed “multiple illegalities” in the entire proceedings.
“This is demonstrably false and the record clearly establishes that any substantial delay is attributable entirely to the respondents. It was the respondents who grossly delayed the acquisition proceedings,” read the affidavit. “The respondents’ attempts to attribute the delay in the acquisition proceedings to the petitioner (Godrej) is malafide, perverse and untenable.”
Also, the company has alleged that the authorities have failed to fulfil the mandatory statutory requirements of the Fair Compensation Act. The affidavit stated that the authorities had not prepared any report Providing details of the approximate cost of land acquisition and hence the entire decision-making process was bad in law. Also, it has claimed that the initial compensation offered was Rs 572 crore as against the awarded Rs 264 crore.
The dispute over ownership of over 3,000 acres of land has been pending between the government and Godrej since 1973. The dispute over the land acquisition for the bullet project is going on since 2019.
Of the total 508.17 kilometres of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, 21 km is planned to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land at Vikhroli (owned by Godrej).
The HC has kept the matter for hearing on November 21.