‘Bullet train is national project’, SC declines to entertain Godrej’s plea for higher compensation

New Delhi:-The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea by Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd for higher compensation for its 9.69 acres of land for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train project. The apex court said the project is of national importance.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd, that the court is not willing to entertain the petition.

The bench said, “Much water has flown, possession has been taken over of the land…and the construction has already commenced.”

Rohatgi repeatedly questioned the validity of the order. The bench replied that it will not entertain the company’s petition.

The Chief Justice told Rohatgi, “Your compensation should not be Rs 264 crore, it should be Rs 572 crore…you have all the remedies now”, and it would be like putting a gun to pay the compensation.

The bench further told Rohatgi, “it is only a question of money. It is a national project…”

After hearing arguments, the top court said if any application for enhancement of compensation is filed, it should be decided within six weeks.

The top court also granted liberty to the company to seek legal recourse for enhancement of the compensation.

The company’s plea challenged validity of the Bombay High Court judgment passed earlier this month, dismissing a petition filed by the Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd challenging the Maharashtra government’s grant of Rs 264 crore in compensation for the land.

The Godrej Group had challenged the award and compensation of Rs 264 crore by the Deputy Collector on September 15, 2022, for acquiring 39,252 sq m (9.69 acres). The company said initially Rs 572 crore was offered and filed the writ petition, also challenging the provisions of the law.

However, the high court, in decision on February 9, described the bullet train project as “of national importance and public interest” and dismissed the petition. The high court said it did not find any illegality in the award or in the “decision taken by the appropriate government in granting extension to make an award by exercising powers under first proviso to Section 25 of the Fair Compensation Act.”

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) is the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the project, which passes through Gujarat, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and Maharashtra, is being executed by the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL).