SC upholds Karnataka HC's quashing of land acquisition by government

The Supreme Court has said in a judgment that land acquired by the government or its instrumentalities for a specific public purpose could not be changed and transferred to private individuals or corporate bodies.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya said though government enjoyed power of "eminent domain" to compulsorily acquire any land for public purpose, yet, it could not legitimise any fraudulent act of the authorities.

"The Courts have repeatedly held that in exercise of its power of eminent domain, the State can compulsorily acquire land of the private persons but this proposition cannot be over-stretched to legitimise a patently illegal and fraudulent exercise undertaken for depriving the landowners of their constitutional right to property with a view to favour private persons," justice Singhvi writing the judgement said.

The judgment came with the dismissal of an appeal from certain corporate houses challenging the Karnataka high court's decision to quash the acquisition proceedings of over 37 acres of land in south Bangalore.

After acquiring the private land though the state government, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation for the ostensible purpose of a Golf-cum-Hotel Resort, it went ahead to transfer the land to a private real estate developer for a group housing project; as also to other corporate houses.

The aggrieved private land owners decided to approach the high court which quashed the proceedings and directed that the land be restored to the original owners. The land owners were asked to return the compensation they had received at the time of the acquisition.