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HC Quashes Plea In Gandhi Ashram Revamp Project 

| Updated: April 9, 2024 09:56

Two residents had filed a petition saying the compensation process was unfair

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Monday dismissed an appeal by two former  residents of the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram complex. 

The petitioners were not satisfied with the compensation offered to them to vacate their houses for the redevelopment project. The bench thus upheld an earlier order of a single judge.

The petitioners alleged that the state government did not disclose all options available as part of its rehabilitation and resettlement policy of Ashram residents to make way for the Rs 1,200-crore Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development project.

Jayesh Vaghela and Karan Soni, were residents of Jamna Kutir, situated near the Ashram.  They informed the court of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee that they had signed an MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the government on October 4, 2021 accepting monetary compensation of Rs 90 lakh. The other options offered to them by the government included a tenement and a 4BHK flat.

‘Lack of transparency’

When compensation was offered, the valuation of both tenement and flat were on par with the monetary compensation, according to the government. However, the petitioners say they were not informed that they had the option of a fully furnished flat. Also, according to them, the fourth option of rehabilitation was added later where residents were offered land along with Rs 25 lakh and rent for two years at Rs 12,000 per month.

The petition was first moved in February alleging that the “process of acquisition against payment of compensation or alternate accommodation has been discretional, inconsistent, non-transparent, and arbitrary” and the entire exercise is totally unfair, unlawful, and authoritarian. 

The petition was dismissed on February 29 by the single judge court of Justice Vaibhavi Nanavati, on the ground that the petitioners had duly signed and consented to the compensation and their subsequent allegations are “without any proof”. The court had also observed that there was also no infringement of fundamental rights.

Earlier verdict upheld

This dismissal was challenged in an appeal and on Monday, a division bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal as being “devoid” of merits, while refusing to interfere with the single judge’s order. 

The bench noted that petitioners had no evidence of a fourth option for rehabilitation being offered to some residents. “It seems that petitioners having received a sum of Rs 60 lakh, had a second thought to seek further property from the respondents (authorities) and instead of vacating the property in question, within 30 days of signing of MoU (as was stipulated in the MoU conditions) on 4.10.2021, they retained its possession and refused to receive the remaining compensation of Rs 30 lakh.

The act of the petitioners in filing the petition before a single judge is nothing but an afterthought, the court observed. After dismissal of writ petition by the single judge, both petitioners have received the remaining amount of compensation of Rs 30 lakh and handed over possession on March 1. The properties in question have been demolished, the court further noted.

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