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New circle rates not excessive: Govt tells HC

The AAP government on Wednesday claimed in the Delhi High Court that its notification enhancing circle rates by three times for acquiring agricultural land in the city was “not excessive” and “aimed at checking proliferation of black money”.

“The notification is an exercise aimed at checking the proliferation of black money and undervaluation of instruments preventing loss to the public exchequer, discouraging land grabbing and ensuring payment of fair compensation to the villagers for the sale of agricultural land,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath was told.

Additional Standing Counsel Sanjoy Ghose, appearing for the Delhi government, defended its stand and told the court that the “rates are not excessive and have been notified considering the rates prevailing in the market”.

Ghose, while filing an affidavit on behalf of the state government, submitted “It would not be in public interest for this court to interfere” in a PIL seeking quashing of its notification enhancing circle rates by three times.

“The committee constituted in terms of section 27 (3) of Indian Stamp Act examined the rates at which identical nature of properties were registered by the office of Sub-Registrar, rates offered and displayed at the various property related portals etc. and recommended district-wise determination of rate for agriculture land in Delhi which is both logical and reasonable,” the affidavit said. It also said it is well within the legislative competence of Delhi government and they have “power to issue notification and the said power has not been conferred upon the LG”.

The affidavit was filed in response to a plea by a city Congress leader Naresh Kumar, seeking direction to the Delhi government to fix uniform rates for agricultural land throughout the capital instead of determining different rates for different areas so as to protect the right of equality of all farmers.

The plea contended the August 4, <g data-gr-id="47">2015</g> notification raised the circle rates in a discriminatory manner and thus be declared as “null and void”. 

The AAP government in its affidavit stated that the prayer made by a Congress leader for “fixation of uniform rates for agricultural land throughout Delhi deserves to be dismissed since the fixation lies within the competence of Government of Delhi after considering the recommendation of the relevant authority as required under 2007 Rules”.

“Furthermore, it is also submitted that the rates have been notified by applying the region/district test so as to revise the rates after due consideration of the prevailing price of agricultural land in the said region.

“The market rate of land in different parts of Delhi are substantially different and further the property tax valuation already differs from zone to zone. It is to be borne in mind that the circle rate of agricultural land prior to the current notification did not differentiate the values in different parts of Delhi, which is considered as a major anomaly and this government has in fact rectified the same,” the affidavit said.

It said issuance of any direction by the court would amount to interference in the exercise of the power specifically bestowed upon the government of Delhi. “Any interference would amount to an exercise in policy making which is clearly beyond the purview of scrutiny under Article 226 of the Constitution of India” 

The plea has alleged that “the decision to fix different rates for the agricultural land to be acquired by government is without any logic and justification.” 

It has also said the Delhi government had no competence to issue such notifications as it was the LG who is the competent authority to take the decision in this regard and he has not approved it.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has fixed the new rates in the range of Rs 1 crore to Rs 3.5 crore per acre from the earlier Rs 53 lakh per acre.

The High Court had earlier dismissed a similar plea, maintaining “no case is made out” as the notification was issued in the name of the LG.
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