Recognising fair compensation for farmers land is a non-negotiable human right: Bombay HC

“Incorporating the Right to Property: Beyond Constitutional and Statutory Bounds, Embracing the Essence of Human Rights as Inalienable Individual Liberties.”

A division bench of the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court, presided over by the Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice YG Khobragade, issued a directive to the State Government and the acquiring authority, mandating just compensation of farmers for the acquisition of their lands. The court observed and lamented, that that despite its previous orders, both the acquiring authority and the state government had exhibited a lack of sensitivity towards the plight of farmers in the state.

“Despite the mandate of the High Court, it appears that neither the acquiring authority, nor the State Government is being sensitised. If insensitivity is to be blinked at by this court, we are afraid that the rule of law will not prevail and there would not only be a travesty of justice, but would result in miscarriage of justice,” the court observed.

This significant legal development came from the High Court that was hearing a cluster of petitions lodged by farmers whose lands had been acquired by the State Government. 

Aggrieved farmers had contended that despite a 2019 order issued by the esteemed Lok Adalat, the government had failed to provide them with the rightful compensation. According to the Government Resolution (GR), the compensation was to be disbursed within 180 days of the settlement award, which had not been honoured this ruling, the High Court expressed profound dismay at the acquiring authorities and revenue officials for callously disregarding the sanctity of the Lok Adalat awards and the severe financial adversities faced by the petitioner farmers. The court also made poignant remarks, emphasising that these cases were glaring illustrations of the authorities showing scant regard for the Lok Adalat awards, issued as far back as December 17, 2019.The division bench documented how, when a farmer’s fundamental right to cultivate his land, an integral part of the right to livelihood, is taken away, it becomes incumbent upon the authorities to duly compensate the affected individual.

Right to property is not only a Constitutional or a statutory right, but also a human right and human rights are considered to be in the realm of individual rights which are gaining an even greater multifaceted dimension and, therefore, in case the person aggrieved is deprived of the land without making the payment of compensation as determined by the Collector/Court, it would tantamount to forcing the said uprooted persons to become vagabonds or to indulge in anti-social activities as such sentiments would be born in them on account of such ill treatment,” 

Moreover, the learned bench astutely observed that the entitlement to compensation for the farmers is a sacrosanct legal right, and for those possessing vested legal rights, the pursuit of justice becomes an inherent facet. Farmers with justifiable claims ought not to implore for justice but rather assert their right to demand it unequivocally. In the event of failure to disburse such payments within the stipulated timeframe, there shall legally arise an interest component, which the responsible officers must bear as a penalty for the delay.

Furthermore, the division bench issued a clear directive to both the government and acquiring authorities, compelling them to ensure timely disbursal of awarded amounts to farmers who have entered into Lok Adalat settlements from the year 2017 onwards, and who have no prior pending cases. The prescribed timeframe for such settlement mandates completion within 90 days from the date of this pivotal judgment.

Based on the findings from the NSSO 59th round ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers’, the economic situation of Indian farmers remains a matter of grave concern. The survey reveals that an average Indian farmer’s monthly earnings stand at Rs 6,426, while their expenditure amounts to Rs 6,223. This indicates a meagre surplus, leaving little room for financial stability or savings.

Disturbingly, a striking level of income inequality plagues the agricultural sector. Merely 15 percent of farmers manage to secure a whopping 91 percent of the total agricultural income. 

This stark contrast between the few privileged and the majority facing financial hardships highlights the overwhelming disparity present within the farming community. An even more distressing aspect is the precarious profitability of farming activities. Specifically, farmers earn a mere Rs 7,639 from a hectare of wheat cultivation, whereas the production cost to achieve this yield amounts to a staggering Rs 32,644. Such a substantial gap between income and expenses poses a severe threat to the livelihoods of countless farmers who struggle to make ends meet. In essence, these findings shed light on the grim economic realities faced by Indian farmers, characterised by slim margins, inequality in income distribution, and the struggle to generate profitable returns from their hard work and investments in agricultural activities. Urgent attention and support are required to uplift the agricultural community and ensure a sustainable and equitable future for these essential contributors to the nation’s prosperity. 

Since 2017, over 800 farmers impacted by the upcoming Jewar airport in Gautam Buddha Nagar have been protesting against land loss, livelihood issues, and insufficient compensation. Their main grievance stems from a government notification that reclassifies the proposed site from rural to urban, halving the compensation amount legally entitled to them under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013. The Act stipulates two times the market rate for urban land and four times the market rate for rural land. 

On March 16, 2018, Farmers Protested against Low Compensation for NTPC Plant in MP and Demanded Jobs. 

Led by the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), farmers in Greater Noida staged a protest at the Greater Noida Development Authority headquarters, protesting the government’s failure to fulfil a promise made 13 years ago. The promise was to compensate them for the lands that were taken away by the government. Thousands of farmers participated in the sprawling rally around the headquarters. On April 25, 2018 Over 5,000 farmers in Gujarat, India, had expressed their willingness to die rather than part with their land, as disputes over land acquisition intensify in the country. In Bhavnagar district, they demanded the return of 2,000 hectares of land acquired by a power utility over two decades ago, which remains unused. They have communicated this plea to state officials and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On May 18, 2023, hundreds of activists and farmers belonging to the farmers’ organisation, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMC), took a standby squatting on a railway track and obstructing rail traffic at Devidaspura village. Their protest was driven by the claim of receiving inadequate compensation for the land acquired for the Bharat Mala project.

Some of the legal developments through case laws illuminated these endeavours and deepen jurisprudence:  

In the case of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. V. Darius Shapur Chennai (2005) 7 SCC 627, the court held that the State could acquire private property under its power of eminent domain, but it must be for a public purpose, and the affected person must receive reasonable compensation as mandated under Article 300-A of the Constitution.

In Jilubhai Nanbhai Khachar v. State of Gujarat MANU/SC/0033/1995, the court clarified that Article 300-A limits the State’s power to deprive a person of their property, ensuring no deprivation without proper legal authority.

In the ruling, Delhi Airtech Services Pvt. Ltd. V. State of U.P (2011) 9 SCC 354, the constitutional courts recognised the right to property as a fundamental human right, emphasizing that the State cannot claim adverse possession over citizens’ properties in its role as a welfare state.

In B.K. Ravichandra & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors SCC OnLine SC 950, the court reaffirmed that compensation must be paid, and the State or authorities cannot ignore this obligation. 

In the case of National Highways Authority of India vs. Modan Singh FAO-756-2022 (O&M), the Land Acquisition Act 2013 was made applicable. (Here, compensation deposited before December 31, 2014, was not paid to the majority of farmers: Punjab & Haryana HC. 

In the case of GNIDA vs. Devendra SLP (C) No. 16366 of 2011, the government’s land acquisition order was invalidated due to its arbitrary exercise of power.

Constitutional Principles 

A welfare state must not, under the pretext of industrial development, forcibly displace and violate the fundamental, constitutional, and human rights of its citizens. A welfare state, governed by the rule of law, cannot assume a status beyond what is granted by the Constitution. Moreover, the authorities responsible for such actions are not only obligated to provide adequate compensation but also have a legal duty to rehabilitate the affected individuals.

Failure to fulfil these obligations would amount to compelling the uprooted individuals to become wanderers or engage in activities against their own nation, as such feelings may arise due to their mistreatment without any lawful procedure. The court must recognize that a welfare state or its agencies enriching themselves at the expense of impoverished farmers is impermissible, especially when endorsed by the state itself.

To further read the judgement 

(The author is an intern with the Citizens for Justice and Peace,



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