New Delhi: Criticising UP Government for acquiring prime agricultural land for building luxury flats in Greater Noida, the Supreme Court on Monday questioned the invoking of urgency clause that bars farmers from raising objections and said it will step in to prevent "more Nandigrams".
   
"Whose residential use are these flats for? Who is building them? What are the prices?.. We want to go into details of the case. This urgency clause is not automatically invoked.... We do not want more Nandigrams in all states," a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and A K Patnaik said.
   
The Bench said it would not like a situation similar to Nandigaram in West Bengal where such steps to acquire land by invoking urgency clause under which farmers cannot raise objections led to large-scale protests and violence.
   
"We will not keep our eyes closed. You take it (agricultural land) from one side and give it to the other. This has to go and if it does not go this court will step in to ensure that. It is development of one section of the society only," the bench said.
   
The hard-hitting observations were made by the bench during the hearing on petitions filed by Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority and real estate developers and builders including Supertech and Amrapali challenging the Allahabad High Court order which had quashed the notifications for land acquisition in Greater Noida, adjoining the national capital.
   
The Apex Court expressed its annoyance over the invocation of urgency clause under the land acquisition law for taking over the land on which high-cost residential flats were being constructed.
   
The High Court had on May 31 quashed acquisition of 170 hectares of land at Gulistan village in Greater Noida for industrial development. Without issuing notice, the apex court bench posted the matter for detailed hearing on July 5.
   
The High Court had said that acquisition of land in Greater Noida for residential apartments, which was done after invoking Section 17 of Land Acquisition Act depriving the aggrieved persons of filing their objections on the ground that the matter was urgent, was a "colourable exercise of power" and had quashed the notification.
   
The Supreme Court bench gave the observations after it was informed that the High Court had quashed the notification based on the contention that the agricultural land was initially acquired for industrial purpose at a cheap price but was later "swapped" and transferred to builders for residential use.
   
The Counsel appearing for Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority contended that the acquisition was part of its "well-known" 2021 plan called the Industrial Development Plan which is a generic term that includes commercial and residential use.
   
The Supreme Court, however, asked the Authority as to whether efforts were made at all by it to find any other land which is not in agricultural use.
   
"Are you going to allot one apartment to each one of them (farmers)? If the government is having any barren land let that be given preference. Why should you give prime agricultural land?" the bench asked.

The High Court order had come on the plea of landowners and farmers who challenged the government notification for land acquisition issued on September 5, 2007. The High Court had rejected the contention that there was any urgency and said the landowners have to be given an opportunity to file their objections.
   
This was the third time that the HC has set aside land acquisition in Greater Noida where the farmers are up in arms against UP government's land acquisition, demanding adequate compensation for their land and had clashed with police last
month.
        
On May 12 and May 15, the High Court had quashed acquisition of more than 170 hectares in Gautam Budh Nagar district.

(Agencies)