HYDERABAD: Finding some force in the arguments of the state regarding submergence and double benefits, the Telangana high court on Thursday stayed the 3-months jail term slapped on Siricilla district collector D Krishna Bhaskar, joint collector Yasmin Basha, and RDO N Srinivas by a single judge earlier in a contempt case.
The bench of Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy, however, directed them to deposit with the registry of the high court the penalty of Rs 2000 and costs of Rs 10,000 to be paid to each of the 29 farmers, imposed by the single judge.
The aggrieved farmers, U Mutha Reddy, and others, who are fighting the legal battle are from Anantagiri and Repaka villages in the Siricilla district where the Anantagiri reservoir is coming up. This reservoir is part of the Kaleswaram irrigation project that has a chain of reservoirs attached to it. The farmers complained that the state is going ahead with the construction of the reservoir in their fields without completing the process of paying the compensation and rehabilitation & resettlement benefits.
Though a single judge earlier gave an interim direction in the past asking the authorities not to dispossess them till all the benefits under the land acquisition act, 2013 were paid to them, they were later dispossessed on account of the release of water into the reservoir. The single judge convicted the collector, JC, and the RDO in a contempt case and awarded them jail and penalty besides slapping costs on them.
Appearing for the accused officials, Advocate General BS Prasad said that the state had immediately preferred an appeal over the interim order of the single judge because in some cases it asked the state to pay rehabilitation benefits twice to the same farmers. The state issued two separate land acquisition notifications. Some farmers have lost land under one notification and houses under another notification.
The state is of the opinion that while compensation can be paid to both, rehabilitation benefits need not be extended twice to the same farmer if he happens to be the owner of both the land and the house, the AG said. Even before this point could be adjudicated, the farmers preferred a contempt case and the single judge convicted the officers, the AG said. We have not dispossessed any of the farmers. This is a reservoir spread in 2500 acres and the compensation and benefits were paid to 2450 farmers. Since the water was released into the reservoir, a 50-acre land belonging to the petitioner farmers, stood submerged. The single judge read it as state-led dispossession, which is not the case here, the AG said.
The bench too asked the petitioners’ counsel whether there is any way a state can protect a tiny 50-acre area from submergence when the water was released to fill a reservoir built for a larger public cause. The bench while staying the jail term to the contemnors, said the hearing in contempt plea and the writ petition of the farmers would be taken up later.