Decided on February 02,2016

Government Of Tamil Nadu And Ors. Appellant
Gail India Limited And Ors. Respondents


- (1.) Leave granted in the special leave petitions. These appeals arise out of a common order dated 25th November, 2013 passed by the High Court of Madras whereby W.Ps. No. 12897, 15102 and 9542 of 2013 have been allowed and a communication dated 2nd April, 2013 issued by the Government of Tamil Nadu directing the Respondent-Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) to lay gas pipeline along the National Highways without affecting the agricultural lands in the State of Tamil Nadu quashed.
(2.) A prestigious gas pipeline project of Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) between Kochi-Kootanad-Mangalore-Bangalore has been planned for execution by the Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL). The laying/construction of the proposed pipeline involves acquisition of right of user in land required for the project under the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 (Act 50 of 1962) hereinafter referred to as "the Right to User Act" and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006. It is not in dispute that the acquisition of right of user in land was undertaken and duly notified in terms of the provisions of the Act aforementioned. Several notifications dated 20th April, 2012, 25th May, 2012, 7th March, 2012, 4th January, 2012, 27th December, 2011 and 19th December, 2011 covering seven different districts in the State of Tamil Nadu, namely, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Salem, Dharmapuri, Namakkal and Krishnagiri have been issued Under Section 6(1) of the said Act. In terms of Section 6(2) upon publication of the declarations, mentioned above, the right of user in the lands specified in the said notifications stands vested absolutely in the Central Government free from all encumbrances. It is not in dispute that the declarations aforementioned have been assailed in a batch of writ petitions filed by seven owners whose lands are affected which petitions are pending adjudication before the High Court of judicature at Madras. Apart from the said petitions, there was no other challenge to the declarations by any other farmer or association whatsoever. This implies that the declarations Under Section 6 and the vesting of the right of user in terms of Section 6(2) has attained finality except to the extent the same is challenged at the instance of the seven owners, referred to above.
(3.) With the vesting of the Right to User in the Central Government, GAIL the beneficiary of the acquisition appears to have started its operations which met with some resistance from the farming community. GAIL appears to have approached the State Government for police protection and assistance in implementing its project, but since the Government was reluctant to give any such protection, it was left with no option but to file Writ Petition No. 17216 of 2012 seeking a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to provide the required protection to its officials, contractors and agents for laying the its pipeline. That petition was dismissed by a Single Judge of the High Court of Madras by an order dated 26th July, 2012. Aggrieved, GAIL preferred Writ Appeal No. 1666 of 2012 which was heard and disposed of by a Division Bench of that High Court by an order dated 4th October, 2012 directing the Government of Tamil Nadu and its officials to convene a meeting of all stakeholders along with GAIL to find a workable solution in the matter. The State Government appears to have accordingly undertaken some kind of exercise in which it claims to have heard the agitating farmers and all other stakeholders. Based on the deliberation so held the State Government issued a communication dated 2nd April, 2013 by which it directed GAIL to take the following actions: (1) GAIL should take steps for laying pipeline alongside the National Highways without affecting the agricultural lands of farmers of Tamil Nadu. (2) GAIL may take steps laying pipeline along side of the National Highways and take necessary steps for supplying LNG to Tamil Nadu. (3) GAIL shall immediately give up the present project of laying gas pipeline through agricultural lands. (4) GAIL should immediately close all the existing trenches excavated for laying pipeline and GAIL should handover the lands in its original condition to the farmers/landowners. (5) GAIL should immediately remove the pipes already laid, so as to enable the farmers to continue their agricultural activities. (6) Farmers who have lost their fruit bearing trees or other structures but not yet compensated by GAIL so far, should be immediately compensated by GAIL.;

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