The Gujarat High Court favours the Respondents i.e. the State of Gujarat against the Petitioners’ i.e. Agriculturalist against the Project contending it to be Unconstitutional, in the recent case of the ongoing Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Project under construction connecting the Cities of Ahmedabad, Gujarat and the Hub Of Indian Economy, Mumbai, Maharashtra. The train upon completion will be India’s first High-Speed Rail Line.
The National High-Speed Railway Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) is a Special Purpose Vehicle formed by the Ministry of Railways for the construction and implementation of the Mumbai- Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Project- MAHSRP (Bullet Tain). While the Petitioners are Agriculturalists who have challenged the acquisition of their lands for the said Project before the Court. The Acts in question were the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, (Act Of 2013) and Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016, (Act Of 2016). The Former Act, being the Principle Act, is a Central Act while the latter a State Act.
Arguments for Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Project
Firstly, the Petitioners’ prayed, for the quashing of the Notifications issued for the Project, as violative of Articles 14, 19, 21 and 300A of the Indian Constitution. The Petitioners claimed that the Market Rates for their lands were not updated and calculated accordingly. This, however, was specifically denied by the Respondents. Secondly, the Petitioners contended that the Notifications were not issued by the “Appropriate Government” (According to the Act it is supposed to be the Central Government) but was rather issued by the State Government for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Project, and therefore the Government had no power or authority in handling the Project. The Respondents cited the Constitutional Aspect of the State Act prevailing over the Central Act after the Presidential Assent is given by the President thereby upholding the Constitutionality Of the State Act. Thirdly, it was contended by the Petitioners, that the Government could not exempt the application of “certain chapters” of the 2016 Act to apply to only “certain projects” since this is not fair, but the Respondents claimed that the State had the Legislative backing to do so. The Petitioners, fourthly, claimed that the Notifications issued were illegal and violative the Fundamental Rights giving the power to Governmental Actions being legal since the Act provided for Retrospective effect to Governmental Actions. And Lastly, the Petitioners contented, That the Act Of 2016 did away with Social Impact Assessment which was extremely imperative for Fairness in the entire process however the Respondent refuted the claims, showing evidence for all the procedural aspects complied with, further agreeing with the importance of Social Impact Assessment.
The Court held in favour of the Respondents, Stating that the State Act Prevailed over the Central Act, in this case, moreover the State Government can take decisions on behalf of the Central Government since there is a valid delegation of the Powers. The Court reiterated the Principle wherein the Presumption is always in favour of Constitutionality of the Statute in Question. The Court while appreciating all the Facts and Circumstances concluded that the Respondents had duly complied will all the requirements that were to be fulfilled by them, giving a green signal to the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train Project.
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