Land Acquisition Completed For Mumbai Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project Except Godrej Plot In Vikhroli: Maharashtra Govt Tells HC

Snapshot
  • The entire land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project has been completed except for a owned by Godrej in Vikhroli, Maharashtra government informs Bombay HC.

    The state government and Godrej group have been embroiled in a protracted legal dispute over ownership of over 3,000 acres of land since 1973. The group owns 3,400 acres of land in Mumbai, the country’s most expensive property market. Over 3,000 acres of this land is in Vikhroli.

The Maharashtra government today (Nov 21) informed the Bombay High Court that the land acquisition process on the entire line of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project has been completed except the plot owned by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co Ltd at suburban Vikhroli.

The state government and the company are embroiled in a legal dispute since 2019 over the acquisition of the company-owned land in Vikhroli for the bullet train project.

Of the total 508.17 km of rail track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, about 21 km is to be underground. One of the entry points to the underground tunnel falls on the land at Vikhroli (owned by Godrej).

The company had last month filed a petition challenging an order passed by the Maharashtra government on September 15 awarding compensation to it for land acquisition for the bullet train project.

On Monday, a division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and S G Dige said it would commence hearing on the petition from December 5.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state government, said the matter was urgent as the project is being held up.

“The entire land required for the project is from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. The entire acquisition of land has been completed except for this patch (owned by Godrej),” Kumbhakoni said.

He sought that the court begin hearing on the plea at the earliest, as the state government has completed all formalities for acquisition and now only taking possession of the land remains.

Godrej’s land was the only portion which was not in the state’s possession, and all the other land has already been acquired, Kumbhakoni said.

On Monday, the company also filed an application seeking disclosures from the state government of all documents and records it had relied upon while deciding which plot of land was best suitable to be acquired for the project.

Earlier, the state government and the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) had claimed that Godrej & Boyce was creating unnecessary hurdles and impediments in the land acquisition process and was hence delaying the project.

This allegation was refuted by the company, which claimed that the land acquisition proceedings were ”illegal and bad in law”.

All Tenders For Maharashtra Section Of Project Out

With land acquisition almost complete in Maharashtra, NHSRCL on Nov 15 invited bids for the largest civil work package of the 508-km long Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) in Maharashtra.

Package C3, the longest of 3 civil packages within Maharashtra and the final package of the entire project that had to be bid out, involves the construction of 135.45 km of elevated lines in the state connecting Shilphata to Zaroli and three elevated stations at Thane, Virar and Boisar.

Bids for two other packages in Maharashtra- design and construction of a 1.028 km underground station at Bandra Kurla Complex(BKC) in Mumbai and a 20.37 km underground tunnel between BKC Station to Shilphata, have already been invited.

Land acquisition for the bullet train project in the state has gained momentum in Maharashtra with the advent of the Eknath Shinde-led coalition government, with nearly all of the land required for the project now being acquired.

All MAHSR project packages in Gujarat have been awarded, and work is progressing rapidly.

Engineering behemoth Larsen & Toubro is implementing three key packages in Gujarat – 237.1 km elevated line between Zaroli Village in the Maharashtra-Gujarat border to Vadodara, a 8.1 km elevated viaduct and station within Vadodara and an 87.5 km elevated viaduct between Vadodara and Ahmedabad.

History Of Dispute Between Godrej Group and Maharashtra Government

In July 2018, the Godrej Group moved the Bombay High Court challenging the proposed acquisition of its prime property in suburban Vikhroli for the government’s ambitious bullet train project between Ahmedabad and the metropolis.

“It is apparent that the entire proceedings for the acquisition of the plot have undisputedly lapsed in terms of Section 25 of the fair Compensation Act and hence the purported award is a nullity and void ab initio”, Godrej group argued in its application.

The state government and Godrej group have been embroiled in a protracted legal dispute over ownership of over 3,000 acres of land since 1973. The group owns 3,400 acres of land in Mumbai, the country’s most expensive property market. Over 3,000 acres of this land is in Vikhroli.

Group founder Pirojsha Godrej purchased the land from the British during the Second World War for Rs 30 lakh. He subsequently bought about 400 acres more, taking the total to 3400 acres. The land, however, includes nearly 1800 acres of mangroves, which cannot be developed due to ecological issues.

Of the 508 km bullet train track between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, 21 km will be in Mumbai, all underground. The Godrej land is where the train will enter the tunnel. The land will be used for ventilation ducts.

(With inputs from PTI)