MUMBAI: The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is a "dream project of this country and of national importance and in public interest", the Bombay High Court said on Thursday dismissing a petition filed by Godrej & Boyce company challenging acquisition proceedings initiated by the Maharashtra government and the NHSRCL in Mumbai's Vikhroli area for the project.
A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and M M Sathaye said the project was one-of-its-kind and collective interest would prevail over private interest.
The court said in cases of conflict on inter fundamental rights and intra fundamental rights, the court has to examine as to where lies the larger public interest while balancing the two conflicting rights.
"It is the paramount collective interest which would ultimately prevail. In the facts of this case, the private interest claimed by the petitioner does not prevail over the public interest which would subserve infrastructural project of public importance which is a dream project of this country and first of its kind," it said.
"In our view the bullet train project is an infrastructural project of national importance, a large numbers of public would be benefited and would have saved other benefits for betterment of this country," the court said.
Of the total 508.17 kilometres of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is planned to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land in Vikhroli (owned by Godrej).
The state government and the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) had claimed the company was delaying the entire project which was of public importance.
The bench, in its judgment, said the provisions of the Fair Compensation Act empowers the government to take the acquisition proceedings already initiated to its logical conclusion.
The court also refused to accept Godrej's contention that the compensation was initially decided to be ₹ 572 crore but was reduced to ₹ 264 crore when the final award was passed.
"The compensation derived at the stage of private negotiation cannot be considered as final and binding since the said private negotiation had admittedly failed," HC said.
The authorities had told the HC the acquisition process of the entire line for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was complete except the land owned by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited in Vikhroli area.
The company and the government have been embroiled in a legal dispute over acquisition of the company-owned land in Vikhroli area of Mumbai for the bullet train project since 2019.
The state government had earlier informed the court it has already deposited the compensation amount of ₹ 264 crore awarded to the company in October last year.
The Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd had filed a petition challenging an order of September 15, 2022 passed by the Maharashtra government awarding compensation to it for land acquisition for the bullet train project.
It had termed the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the state government as "unlawful" and claimed there were "multiple and patent illegalities" in the same.
The HC bench, however, said it has not found any illegality in the compensation or proceedings initiated by the authorities. "We have not found any illegality in the compensation," it said.
The company has not made out a case for the court to exercise its powers and, hence, no interference is required, it added.
Senior counsel Navroz Seervai, appearing for the company, sought the HC to stay its order for a period of two weeks so that they could approach the Supreme Court in appeal. The bench, however, refused to stay its order.
The company had earlier sought the HC to direct the state government not to proceed towards the award passed and initiation possession proceedings.
It said the award granted by the government was "ex facie illegal and hence a nullity".
It also refuted the allegations made by the government and the NHSRCL that the company was causing unnecessary delay in the project.
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