3 Aug 2023 8:15 AM GMT
The Madras High Court on Wednesday said that it would fix responsibility equally on the farmers for trespassing into the property already acquired by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and upon NLC for not taking adequate care to prevent farmers from cultivating in the land. The NLC acquired farmlands between 2006 and 2013 for Paravanar Canal Diversion Project for its Mine...
The Madras High Court on Wednesday said that it would fix responsibility equally on the farmers for trespassing into the property already acquired by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and upon NLC for not taking adequate care to prevent farmers from cultivating in the land.
The NLC acquired farmlands between 2006 and 2013 for Paravanar Canal Diversion Project for its Mine II expansion plans. The lands were acquired as per the Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act 1997 and enhanced compensation was also paid.
The recent developments took place when last week bulldozers started destroying standing crops to take over and lay the canal which led to huge protests. One of the farmers approached the court to restrain NLC from taking possession of the fertile lands till the harvest was done.
Justice SM Subramaniam observed that once land was acquired following the procedures as contemplated under the Act, the landowners could not claim any right over the property nor enter it and cultivate the same.
“Once the lands are acquired by following the procedures as contemplated under the Land Acquisition Act, the landowners cannot claim for any right over the property nor enter into the property and cultivate the same. Such an entry, if any, made is to be construed as trespass,” the court said.
The court however noted that in the present case, NLC had not effectively prevented the farmers from cultivating in the land which had been going on for the past many years and the farmers were also made to believe that it will take a long time for NLC to utilise the acquired lands.
“Under these circumstances, a test of reasonableness is to be adopted to strike a balance between the facts and the legal position and the fact that the fifth respondent in coordination with the State has come forward to pay compensation for the damages caused to standing crops. This Court could form an opinion that the liability is to be fixed equally on the farmers who trespassed into the acquired land and also on the fifth respondent, who had not taken adequate care to prevent the farmers from cultivating the land for many years,” the court observed.
The court added that as per the Fundamental duties enumerated under Article 51-A of the Constitution, every individual must be a law abiding citizen and the farmers, as dutiful citizens are expected not to commit trespass being conscious of the fact that the land had already been acquired.
The farmers had claimed that the standing crops were in the advanced stage nearing cultivation and the loss quantified by the government (being Rs.30,000 per acre) was far less than the notional value of crops. The farmers had thus submitted that Rs. 80,000 per acre would be the reasonable compensation for the crops damaged.
Fixing 50% liability on the farmers and 50% on the corporation, the court asked NLC to pay Rs. 40,000 per acre in respect of standing crops damaged on account of their activities. It was also agreed that the amounts would be paid to the 88 affected farmers by August 6 2023.
The court further said that the farmers have the liberty to approach the Office of the Special Tahsildar-II, Land Acquisition, Neyveli Lignite Corporation Limited, who in turn in coordination with the Authorities of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation shall settle the amounts.
The court also directed the farmers not to carry out any further cultivation in the land and to harvest the existing crops by September 19. The court further directed the State government to take all appropriate actions to maintain the peace and tranquillity in the locality.
Case Title: Murugan v State of Tamil Nadu and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 215
Click here to read/download the order