The delegation of power to acquire land for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project by the Centre to the Gujarat government is illegal, project-affected farmers told the Gujarat High Court on Monday.
The high court was hearing petitions filed by farmers who are opposing acquisition of land for the project.
In an affidavit filed on October 12, the Ministry of Railways had told the court that it had issued a notification on October 8, 2018 delegating to the state government the power to acquire land for the project with retrospective effect.
The petitioners, in their reply on Monday, said the notification was issued when the petitions filed by farmers in June this year were pending before the court, and therefore it is "illegal and unconstitutional."
The notification was also an admission by the Union government that it was the "appropriate government" to acquire land and not the Gujarat government, they said.
"The issuance of notification...is an admission on part of the Ministry of Railways that the state government is not an appropriate government as per... Land Acquisition Act, 2013," the farmers' reply said.
Such admission "automatically invalidates" all the earlier notifications issued by the state government for the land acquisition, the farmers said.
The land should, therefore, be acquired under the unamended central legislation of the 2013 act and not according to the state's amended land acquisition act of 2016, they said.
The petitioners have maintained that as this is a multi-state project (across Gujarat and Maharashtra), the acquisition should take place under the central act of 2013.
The Gujarat version of the land acquisition act has diluted certain safeguards for land owners' rights, they contended.
The state government had earlier told the court that as the width of the tract of land to be acquired is only 17.5 metres, resettlement issues were minimal.
The government will need to compensate around 6,000 land owners for the project.