The Gujarat High Court on Thursday rejected over 120 pleas, challenging the land acquisition process for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, PTI reported. The court told the petitioners, who are all farmers, to seek higher compensation for their land from the authorities concerned.

The bench of justices AS Dave and Biren Vaishnav said the farmers could highlight instances where a higher compensation was provided by the National Highway Authority of India or any other body in terms of land acquisition.

The court upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act that was amended by the Gujarat government in 2016. The farmers’ pleas had challenged the state amendment that altered the central law of 2013.

The High Court dismissed the claims of farmers that the state government had no powers to issue a land acquisition notice as the project was shared between Gujarat and Maharashtra. Issuing a notification on land acquisition without taking social impact assessment into consideration was also valid, the court said.

The bench also noted that the state’s “go-bye” to the central law’s mandatory social impact assessment and rehabilitation and resettlement was legal and could not be categorised as “excessive delegation”. The court also said that the social impact assessment done was correct and satisfactory, according to The Times of India.

Following the order, the counsel of the petitioners claimed they would approach the Supreme Court against the order. The farmers had submitted that their land acquisition could not be initiated before revising the land prices as provided under the 2013 Act, according to PTI. They had also alleged that the compensation given to them were on the basis of the market rates in 2011.

Nearly 6,900 farmers will be impacted by the project, out of which 60% have raised objections to the acquisition process. Last year, five land owners from Surat in Gujarat had filed pleas that challenged the legality of the state notification for land acquisition. While the five pleas were withdrawn, hundreds of others from central and South Gujarat approached the High Court to challenge the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act.

Last year, the state government had doubled the compensation for farmers whose agricultural land in urban areas will be acquired for the bullet train project. The farmers were also set to get an additional 25% “bonus” on the compensation amount.

The project has faced stiff opposition from farmers and land owners in both Gujarat and Maharashtra. Around 1,000 farmers in Gujarat submitted affidavits to the High Court in September 2018, many alleging that their land was being acquired without their consent and they were not being provided any rehabilitation or resettlement package.

The bullet train corridor from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is proposed to be an elevated 508-km high-speed rail line meant to benefit diamond merchants, textile traders and other professionals shuttling between the two cities. In the process, the project will cut through at least 312 villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, take over 866 hectares of fertile farmland and cut down more than 80,000 trees. The project is expected to cost Rs 1.1 lakh crore, of which the Japan International Cooperation Agency will fund Rs 88,000 crore.

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