The Supreme Court on Friday, February 24, 2023 refused to entertain an appeal filed by Godrej & Boyce against the Bombay High Court order which refused to set aside the acquisition of Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd’s plot at Vikhroli for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The matter was listed before a bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.
The court noted that while the petitioner had the liberty to claim enhancement of compensation for the plot, his plea for acquisition of the plot for which possession had already been taken by the government and construction had already started, could not be entertained.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for the petitioner, Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the State of Maharashtra in the matter.
In the Bombay High Court, Godrej had challenged the award and compensation of Rs 264 crore by the deputy collector on September 15, 2022 for acquiring 39,252 sqm (9.69 acre) of company land for the Mumbai – Ahmedabad bullet train project. The company claimed the amount was a fraction of the initial offering of Rs. 572 crores. However, the core challenge in the petition was to a notification dated 20th August 2019 exempting the project from social impact assessment issued under Section 10A of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. It also challenged the constitutional validity of a proviso to section 25 of the Fair Compensation Act which permits the State to grant extensions for issuance of the award.
The Bombay High Court had stated that at such stage of the project, it could not exercise the discretion under Article 226 of the Constitution to interfere with the acquisition of a small portion of the land as compared to 97% of the land which is already acquired and used substantially. The Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal on similar grounds. CJI DY Chandrachud said– “Mr Rohatgi, much water has flown, the possession is taken, the construction has commenced.
Ultimately, you can still ask for the 572 crores or maybe more. You are not bound by even 572 crores. But now the discussion (concerning the plot) is academic because the construction has also started.”
“We will give you liberty, which you any way have, that your claim for compensation be resolved at the earliest. We will sit down a period of six months for that. This is only a question of money. This is a national project.”
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. However, the court stated that on filing of a reference by the petitioner on enhancement of compensation, the jurisdictional court shall decide upon the same within a period of six weeks.