New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has slammed the Delhi government for failing to respond to a plea by 172 farmers over takeover of their land using the urgency clause of the Land Acquisition Act.

A division bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Rajiv Shakedhar also fined the government Rs.5,000.In a hearing March 6, the judges asked the government to explain why it acquired the land using the urgency clause and sought a reply July 9.

The order came on a petition filed by farmers challenging the acquisition of land in Barwala village in northwest Delhi. The farmers said the government took over the land in 2009, saying it would be utilised for the development of Rohini phase VI and V residential localities.

"The government has not done any substantial development work in the area, so the claim of urgency on the part of the government was a colourable exercise of power," said the petition.

The advocate for the farmers banked on several judgments of the Supreme Court that say land acquisition can be challenged even after acceptance of compensation if Section 17 has been wrongly invoked.

The farmers alleged that the government awarded them Rs.53 lakh per acre, whereas the market price for the same land was no less than Rs.5 crore per acre.