The Maharashtra government today (November 21) informed the Bombay High Court that the land acquisition process for the entire route of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project has been completed, except for the plot owned by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd in suburban Vikhroli.
The state government and the company have been embroiled in a legal dispute since 2019 over the purchase of land in Vikhroli owned by the company for the high-speed rail project.
Of the total 508.17 km of railway track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is expected to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on Vikhroli land (owned by Godrej).
The company had filed a petition last month challenging the order passed by the Maharashtra government on September 15 awarding it compensation for acquiring land for the high-speed train project.
On Monday, a bench of Justices RD Dhanuk and SG Diga said it would begin hearing the petition on December 5.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, representing the state government, said the case was urgent as the project was on hold.
“The entire land required for the project is from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The entire land acquisition has been completed except for this patch (owned by Godrej),” Kumbhakoni said.
He demanded that the court start considering the cause of action as soon as possible, since the state authority has completed all the formalities for the acquisition and now all that remains is possession of the land.
Godre’s land was the only part that was not owned by the state, and all other lands have already been acquired, Kumbhakoni said.
On Monday, the company also filed an application asking the state government to disclose all the documents and records it relied on in deciding which land was the most suitable to purchase for the project.
Earlier, the state government and the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) had alleged that Godrej & Boyce was creating unnecessary hurdles and hurdles in the land acquisition process and was therefore delaying the project.
The company denied this allegation and claimed that the land acquisition procedures were “illegal and legally inconsistent”.
All the tenders for the Maharashtra part of the project are out
With land acquisition in Maharashtra almost complete, NHSRCL on November 15 invited bids for the largest package of construction works for the 508-km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) in Maharashtra.
Package C3, the longest of the three civil packages in Maharashtra and the final package of the entire project to be tendered, involves the construction of 135.45 km of overhead lines in the state connecting Shilphata to Zaroli and three overhead stations at Thane, Virar and Boisar.
Bids have already been floated for two other packages in Maharashtra – design and construction of a 1.028 km metro station at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai and a 20.37 km metro tunnel between BKC station and Shilphata.
Land acquisition for the state’s high-speed train project has gained momentum in Maharashtra with the arrival of the Eknath Shinde-led coalition government, with almost all the land required for the project now acquired.
All project packages of MAHSR in Gujarat have been awarded and work is progressing rapidly.
Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro is implementing three key packages in Gujarat – 237.1 km elevated line between Zaroli village on Maharashtra-Gujarat border to Vadodara, 8.1 km elevated viaduct and station at Vadodara and 87.5 km elevated viaduct between Vadodara and Ahmedabad.
History of the dispute between the Godrej Group and the Government of Maharashtra
In July 2018, the Godrej Group challenged in the Bombay High Court the proposed acquisition of its prime property in the suburb of Vikhroli for the government’s ambitious bullet train project between Ahmedabad and the metropolis.
“It is evident that the entire process of acquiring the plot is indisputably barred by statute of limitations within the meaning of Section 25 of the Just Compensation Act and therefore the purported conveyance is null and void ab initio,” the Godrej group argued in the suit.
The state government and the Godrej group have been involved in a long-running legal dispute since 1973 over the ownership of over 3,000 hectares of land. The group owns 3,400 acres of land in Mumbai, the country’s most expensive real estate market. More than 3000 acres of this land is in Vikhrola.
Group founder Pirojsha Godrej bought the land from the British for Rs 30 lakh during World War II. He later bought about 400 more acres, bringing the total to 3,400 acres. The land, however, includes nearly 1,800 hectares of mangroves that cannot be developed due to ecological issues.
Of the 508 km high-speed rail line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, 21 km will be in Mumbai, all underground. The Godrej land is where the train will enter the tunnel. The land will be used for ventilation ducts.
(With inputs from PTI)
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