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Landmark SC judgment in Manesar land acquisition scam; victory at last for crusader Om Prakash Yadav
Salute to the Supreme Court of India and Om Prakash Yadav, who fought a decade-long fight for achieving justice for the farmers who had been forced to sell their lands to builders under threat of acquisition by the Haryana government.

In a landmark judgment on Tuesday, the division bench of the apex court comprising of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Udey Umesh Lalit observed that the decision to withdraw the acquisition orders after issuing notices under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act was "nothing but fraud on power" and the greater victim in the matter was the public interest.

The farmers were issued notices under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act for acquiring around 912 acres of land from three villages namely Manesar, Lakhnoula and Naurangpur in Haryana's Gurugram district for setting up Chaudhari Devi Lal Industrial Township, to serve as an integrated complex for residential, recreational and other public purposes in 2007.

However, after the panicky farmers sold their lands to builders at throwaway prices, the Haryana government withdrew the notification for acquisition and thereafter, the builders were issued licenses for construction of residential complexes. But kudos to the Indian judiciary and the crusader Om Parkash Yadav, the case has finally reached its logical conclusion.

A division bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices Adrash Kumar Goel and Udey Umesh Lalit, in a landmark judgment on March 13, which will have wider ramifications on acquisition of land and granting of licenses to colonizers, restored the acquisition of 688 acres of land holding that the decision to withdraw the order for acquisition was abuse of power perpetrated by the unholy nexus between the government machinery and private builders.

Shockingly, it happened during the chief ministership of Bhupinder Singh Hooda who had been appointed by the erstwhile Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi as Chairman of the Committee for drafting policies on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation with senior Congress leaderCaptain Amarinder Singh and media in charge of the Congress Randeep Surjewala as its members.

Om Parkash Yadav, former Sarpanch of Manesar fought a decade-long battle for ensuring justice for the farmers. During this struggle he was threatened many times. He was also provided security by the Haryana Police.

Om Parkash Yadav

(Petitioner in the case former sapanch of Manesar Om Parkas Yadav)

The apex court has directed the Haryana government to revisit its policy of change of land use and issuing licenses for colonization in respect of land which is subject to acquisition. This will set a new precedent not only for Haryana but for the whole country as the modus operandi in such unlawful practices is to first issue notices for acquisition of land under Land Acquisition Act for public purpose and then issuing licenses to colonizers while the process for acquisition is still in progress.

It was a complicated case so the SC appointed CA Sundaram as amicus curiae for assisting the court. While lauding the role of Sundaram, the apex court commented that it sincerely appreciates the efforts and the invaluable assistance rendered by him as his analytical approach and suggestions helped the court immensely in resolving the issue.

On the court's directions, the CBI also investigated the case to fix criminal responsibility and a charge sheet running in to thousands of pages was filed by the Central agency with the CBI designated court at Panchkula.

The court said that although the CBI had already filed the charge sheet in the case, it had not investigated the angle of making money by the "middle men'. Now the directions of the apex court have put additional responsibility on the CBI which now has the option of either filing a supplementary charge sheet after probing this angle or referring the probe into this angle to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Income Tax Department.

The apex court's judgment has wider political implications in Haryana's political scenario as it involves Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the former CM of the state, who is crying foul alleging that this is a case of political vendetta on part of the Haryana government led by Manohar Lal Khattar as he had launched a campaign against its anti people policies.

Hooda's opponents within the party including State Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar, leader of Congress Legislature Party Kiran Choudhary, and party's media in charge Randeep Singh Surjewala although have expressed solidarity with him in public but are jubilant over the developments. Supporters of Hooda have been demanding the ouster of State Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar by even giving hints of quitting the party in case Tanwar is not replaced.

Only a few days back, Hooda had started a rath yatra exposing various acts of the Haryana government which he described as anti people. But now with the SC's judgment, Hooda will be on the defensive. Hooda, it may be recalled, had even questioned the locus standi of Om Parkash Yadav on whose writ petition the apex court has delivered its judgment.

The BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leaders are also jubilant over the judgment. BJP Spokesman, Jawahar Yadav, while welcoming the SC's decision said that it has been proved beyond doubt that Bhupinder Singh Hooda only shed crocodile tears for farmers.

Leader of opposition in Haryana Assembly, Abhay Singh Chautala said that the wheels of justice grind slowly but surely truth prevails, adding that this decision has reinforced the faith of common people in the country's judicial system.

SP Gupta, former IAS officer of Haryana and expert on land acquisition and urban development who earlier held the post of Administrator of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), Gurugram, told that after issuance of notice under section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act which is finalizing of the acquisition process, even the government cannot release the land, also adding that Section 4 is the government's intention of acquisition and Section 6 is the final step after which compensation is given to the land owners. Gupta said that the notification for acquisition after issuance of notice under Section 6 can be withdrawn only under provisions of Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, only if the purpose for which the land was acquired has not been fulfilled, and even in that case, the land will go back to the land owner. Gupta said that since the notification was withdrawn, the government was liable to pay damages to land owners for the period between issuing of notice under Section 4 and withdrawal of the acquisition notice.

The apex court observed that wherever such "fraud on power" is committed, it is the duty of the court to not only set aside such an act but also to see that there are no further violations of law.

Bhupinder Singh Hooda was jokingly referred to as the "change of land use chief minister", as a large number of licenses for change of land use were issued during his tenure. Thousands of flat buyers are running from pillar to post for getting possession of their flats in Gurugram although they have paid ninety per cent of money. These builders were given licenses during the chief ministership of Hooda.

Former Sarpanch of Manesar and the complainant in this case, Om Parkash Yadav, is a born fighter. Not only him, but his father, grandfather, grandmother and mother had earlier served as Sarpanch of Manesar. His father Harlal was founder of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and the tallest kisan leader, Mahendra Singh Tikait used to hold him in high esteem.

Om Parkash Yadav told Tehelka that during his over a decade-long struggle for justice, efforts were made to buy him with money. Welcoming the Supreme Court's judgment, Yadav said that finally the farmers who had been cheated by the government and the builder lobby have got justice. Yadav is thankful to his counsel Puranmal for contesting the case considering himself as a victim while a battery of senior lawyers appeared on behalf of the builders. A spokesman of Haryana government told that they are studying the judgment in detail. Yadav said that all the politicians and officers who are involved in this scam must be punished.

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