Millennium Post

Supreme Court to hear plea against non-operational SEZs

The Supreme Court today said it would accord final hearing to a plea seeking return of unused land acquired for Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to farmers and a court-monitored CBI probe into the alleged flouting of rules by beneficiary corporates.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud asked states, which have not filed their responses till date, to file them within four weeks without fail, otherwise their right to respond would be closed.
It had on January 9 issued notices to the Centre and Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal and Punjab on a PIL which alleged that almost 80 per cent of the land acquired for SEZs was lying unused.
As on July 4, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab had not filed their replies.
"State governments which have not filed the response have been granted one last opportunity to file the reply within four weeks," the bench said and posted the matter for final disposal after eight weeks.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that land had been granted by the respective state governments.
Moreover, SEZs are there in 20 states and only eight have been made parties and the rest 12 are needed to be impleaded in the case along with the SEZ developers, he said.
The law officer also sought deletion of the name of the Cabinet Secretary from the list of parties.
The plea, filed by the SEZ Farmers Protection, Welfare Association, alleged that in last five years alone, 4,842.38 hectares of land was acquired for various SEZs and only 362 hectares were utilised, leaving around 4,480 hectares unused.
It also referred to a comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report of 2012-13 and alleged that not only have the farmers been deprived of their land, but also consequential benefits such as employment generation and industrialisation of the acquired areas have not taken place.
Some companies, for whose SEZs the plots of land were acquired, raised loans by mortgaging the land documents as collateral securities with banks, but strangely did not use the loan money to develop these SEZs, the PIL said.
The farmers' body also sought initiation of civil and criminal proceedings against the holders of land, meant for SEZs, for "not performing the obligatory duty under the contract resulting to unemployment, wastage of natural resources, causing loss to food security".
Besides returning "vacant, unused land to farmers", the plea also sought declaring of the land acquisition as "unconstitutional", being violative of fundamental right to life and equality on the ground that they have caused "joblessness to farmers, agricultural labourers".
The plea has sought a direction to the Centre and the states to conduct "comprehensive social impact study" on the affected farmers and their dependents on account of land acquisition for SEZs.
Quoting Rajya Sabha proceedings, the PIL said "now the government has also admitted to the fact in the Rajya Sabha that as high as 40 per cent of the total land acquired for SEZ across 20 states of the country remained unutilised up to March 13, 2015."
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