Thursday, July 20, 2006

NICE after excess land: SC told

NICE after excess land: SC told
Deccan Herald

Karnataka has claimed before the Supreme Court that it has in its possession new material showing that the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) would have excess land of 3,633 acres in Bangalore...

Karnataka has claimed before the Supreme Court that it has in its possession new material showing that the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) would have excess land of 3,633 acres in Bangalore for real estate purposes, in the first phase of the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project.

In its review petition submitted before the SC seeking a reconsideration of its April 20 order slapping a fine of Rs five lakh on the Karnataka Government, to be paid to NICE, Karnataka stated that this was “a clear indicator of excess land made available to the contractor” (NICE, which is to construct the expressway).

The petition said the new material – the report of the UTI Bank, which is the financial advisor and arranger of the contractor – points out that the excess land related just to the road portion in the first phase of the project. “The petitioner reserves the right to examine the contract and its implementation in the light of this new material and to take appropriate action. At any rate, these aspects clearly show the unconscionable-ness of the bargain which disentitles the contractor to the relief of specific performance,” the government submitted.

On the excess land issue, the petition said that after the framework agreement was framed, it was found that the land was being acquired far in excess in and around Bangalore in the name of interchanges, which will ultimately go for commercial purposes.

It said that the dispute covers 743 acres of excess government land and 1,706 acres of excess private

land, totalling 2,450 acres, which cost Rs 6,000 crore at the relevant time and presently cost Rs 30,000 crore.

While giving the judgement, the Court did not consider the disputes between the government and NICE about the exact identification of the land required for the project.

NICE, the State petition said, had admitted that it had required 1,600 acres for peripheral roads, link roads, service roads, service changes and interchanges (apart from township No 1). NICE had later contended that it was an error.

The petition said that the SC had erred in holding that the exercise of identification of excess land was carried out after the judgement of the Karnataka High Court.

It added that the apex court had also overlooked the fact that the sub-committee report, which is part of the K C Reddy committee, had specially identified the land required for the project, survey-number-wise and village-wise, thereby automatically identifying excess land.

“The apex court erred in commenting adversely upon persons not before it and that too without notices to them, including Mr Reddy, who was the chairman of the committee which prepared the expert committee report,” the petition said.

The plea, which also sought to include a letter written by Governor T N Chaturvedi to support its argument relating to excess land, said that the State was being severely affected by the April judgement as it has “far-reaching consequences on the public exchequer and welfare of the general public”. The impugned judgement had not even taken into consideration the letter of the Governor, who was a former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who was also convinced, the petition said, that excess land was sought to be given to the contractor.

NICE did not sue but instead, chose to set up a third entity (the All India Manufacturers’ Association and others) to fight the case. It was a far-reaching question, the petition said, as a stranger to the contract had come to the Court to enforce the contract in a PIL.

The April order had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on JD(U) MLA J C Madhuswami as well as Rama Reddy of the CPI and others, who had appealed against the High Court judgement of May 3, 2005.

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