The Chhattisgarh High Court has quashed a land acquisition order by the state government for four power projects, including a project of SKS Ispat and Power Ltd, the company under a cloud for its links with Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai.
Justice Prashant Mishra held that the state government had misused its powers of eminent domain to acquire land since the coalbased power projects did not constitute 'public purpose'. The court called the acquisition a 'colourable exercise of power' and asked Chhattisgarh government to pay Rs 5,000 each as damages to each petitioner.
“The order is significant in the context of the current furore over private companies getting access to coal blocks for free. It shows that the same companies also got access to land for cheap, facilitated by the state government,” said Sanjay Kumar, who appeared on behalf of 62 farmers from Siladih and Birra villages where government has acquired 790 acres of land for Moser Baer's 1320 MW power project, and also two petitioners from Akaltara village where KSK Energy is setting up a 3600 MW project.
Eight separate petitions had been filed by 100-odd villagers who stood to lose their land in Raigarh and Janjgir Champa districts to four companies - SKS Power, KSK Energy, Moser Baer and Visa Power.
Congress said the truth about coal block allocations lies in BJP answering if its chief ministers wrote to the Centre against a switch to competitive bidding and if NDA regime followed a more transparent procedure in the screening committee to select applicants for coal mines. Union minister Jairam Ramesh lobbed eight “inconvenient questions” at Bharatiya Janata Party, saying, “BJP has to look within before hurling accusations at UPA.”
He said CAG had indicted the BJP regime in Chhattisgarh of causing loss of over Rs 1,000 crore to the state by diverting a coal mine given to a government company to Ajay Sancheti, a close associate of party chief Nitin Gadkari. He added that Jharkhand CM Arjun Munda and BJD’s Navin Patnaik had recommended coal blocks for companies that were now being dubbed as “tainted”.
Piling on accusations against the rival, Ramesh said BJP CMs Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh, and non-Congress states Odisha and Bengal, had objected to the system of allocating coal mines on competitive bidding.