NEW DELHI: More than three decades after their land was acquired for development of Vaishali satellite town outside Delhi, the Supreme Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to pay compensation of Rs 297 per square yard to farmers who had sought Rs 115 per sq yard.
This is more than three times the original compensation of Rs 90 per sq yard granted by the trial court, which had increased it from Rs 50 per sq yard fixed by the state in 1986. The Allahabad High Court had granted compensation at Rs 297 per sq yard to a section of farmers but had said others would be entitled to only Rs 115 per sq yard as that was the compensation they had sought.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan read into the judgment the concept of ‘Reflective Equilibrium’, which mandates that all human beings have equal value and should, therefore, be treated as equals by equal laws.
The bench noticed that one section of farmers was compelled by poverty to seek compensation of Rs 115 per sq yard as they were not in a position to pay higher court fee required to be deposited if they had asked for Rs 297 per sq yard.
“Once a fair compensation is determined judicially, all land owners should become beneficiary thereof. Not only is it an aspect of good governance, failing to do so would also amount to discrimination by giving different treatment to persons though identically situated. On technical grounds, like the one adopted by the high court in the judgment, this fair treatment cannot be denied to them,” said Justice Sikri, who wrote the judgment for the bench.
“Simply because the appellants had paid court fee on the claim at the rate of Rs 115 per sq yard could not be the reason to deny compensation at a higher rate. This could be taken care of by directing UP government to pay the difference in court fee after calculating the same at the rate of Rs 297 per sq yard,” the bench said and ordered the UP government pay the difference amount to farmers within three months.
Giving the issue a human rights perspective, the bench said, “Persons belonging to weaker sections are disadvantaged people who are unable to acquire and use their rights because of poverty, social or other constraints. They are not in a position to approach the courts even when their rights are violated, they are victimised or deprived of their legitimate due.
“Here lies the importance of access to justice for socially and economically disadvantaged people, When such people are denied the basic right of survival and access to justice, it further aggravates their poverty. Therefore, even in order to eliminate poverty, access to justice to poor sections of society becomes imperative.”