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Chengara Land Agitation : Kerala High Court Condemns 20 Yrs Delay, Directs State To Notify Time Frame Required To Allot Habitable Land

Hannah M Varghese
19 Jan 2022 6:32 AM GMT
Chengara Land Agitation : Kerala High Court Condemns 20 Yrs Delay, Directs State To Notify Time Frame Required To Allot Habitable Land
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The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to inform the time frame required to allot inhabitable land to the landless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes individuals at Chengara who have been fighting for their land for two decades, which soon shaped a campaign and came to be known as the 'Chengara land agitation'. While requiring the State to disclose the name...

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to inform the time frame required to allot inhabitable land to the landless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes individuals at Chengara who have been fighting for their land for two decades, which soon shaped a campaign and came to be known as the 'Chengara land agitation'. 

While requiring the State to disclose the name of the officer who had been entrusted with identifying and allotting such land, Justice Devan Ramachandran also reflected on the disproportionate hold up in granting benefits to those who lost their land to State acquisition: 

"...the genesis of the controversy in this case began in the year 2001, when an agreement was entered into by the Government with the participants of the '"Chengara Land agitation". It has been nearly 20 years thereafter, but a resolution has not been yet found. This is extremely deleterious because when this State is now gearing for various projects, which will involve displacement of people on account of acquisition, the delay in grant of eligible benefits to the persons who were involved in the "Chengara agitation" would only give rise to further strife and complication." 

The Court was hinting at the K-Rail Silver Line project undertaken by the State which has also been scheming to acquire huge plots of land to build a semi high-speed rail corridor connecting one end of the State to the other. 

The Silver Line project demands around 1,383 hectares to be completed, and out of this, a whopping 1,198 hectares are owned by private individuals. Several individuals have moved the Court against the preparations for land acquisition before the project has obtained sanction from the Union government. 

Also Read: Kerala High Court Asks Centre To Clarify Its Stand On K-Rail SilverLine Project

The Court recorded that unless the earlier commitments made by the Government are adequately met by them, further commitments - particularly on account of the pressing demands on land in Kerala - would become impossible to be honoured, thus paving the way to deleterious consequences in future.

The Judge also noted that although the petition was filed in 2013, apart from filing statements and affidavits, no resolution had been made in the case so far: 

"Even though affidavits and statements have been filed before this Court, a solution to the problems faced by the petitioners do not appear to be still in sight."  

As such, the authorised officer was directed to inform the Court as to the manner and time within which land would be allotted to the aggrieved persons: 

"I am, therefore, certain that this Court should now be told by a competent authority of the Government as to how and when the lands required for the petitioners and similarly situated persons, will be allotted to them so that their claims can be fully taken care of...this is very important because the requirements of land on account of the various developmental activities would only mount in the future." 

The State government submitted that the Land Revenue Commissioner and other revenue officials were taking steps to identify land for distribution and 36.3438 hectares of habitable land had been identified in four districts. The government was in the process of finding out more land. 

Senior Government Pleader Jaffar Khan submitted that the Land Revenue Commissioner and other Revenue officials are now sincerely working to identify lands to be allotted to the petitioners and similarly placed persons and that an extent of 36.3438 hectors of land is available in four districts, for distribution. 

Advocate K.S.Madhusoodanan appearing for the petitioners argued that the total extent required is double this and that he is not sure if even the aforementioned 36.3438 hectors of land is habitable or otherwise. 

To this, State responded that the aforementioned 36.3438 hectors are habitable and that Government is in the process of finding out other lands which can then be distributed to the petitioners and similarly placed persons. 

The court also directed the State to conduct a necessary enquiry with respect to the 36.3438 hectors of land to confirm that it is fully inhabitable and capable of distribution; and report the time frame within which it can be allotted to eligible persons. 

The matter will be taken up again on February 2 within which time, the Senior Government Pleader has been directed to disclose the Officer entrusted with the afore task and also the time frames within which habitable lands will be allotted to the petitioners and other similarly situated persons.  

Case Title:  Adivasi Dalit Munneta Samiti & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors

Click Here To Read/Download The Interim Order

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