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MTDC loses compensation to land owners in Ajanta development project

The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has lost an attempt to withdraw INR 1,37,50,547 paid as part-compensation to the land owners of Pimpaldari village in Aurangabad for the Ajanta Verul Development Project as notified in 2000, reports The Free Press Journal.

The project involves the integrated development of the Ajanta-Ellora caves, including the Ellora Leni and Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga temple in Verul. It aims to conserve the cultural heritage and the surrounding environment, and to encourage comprehensive tourism development. This involved reclaiming land from some villagers and paying them compensation.

As per the apex court’s order of December 2016, project implementing authorities must release 50 per cent of compensation with security and the rest without security. Later, another SC order in January 2018 brought up certain technicalities of the project and related compensation.

The Bombay High Court in December 2018 then allowed the tourism corporation to withdraw the sum mistakenly deposited even as the land owners came in with their appeal regarding the compensation. The HC said that the apex’s court order of January 2018 modified its own order of December 2016.

An SC bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sudhanshu Dhulia has now set aside that HC order allowing MTDC to withdraw the deposited amount. It observed that the orders passed by the courts, particularly by the Supreme Court, are required to be understood on their pith and substance while avoiding an approach of technicalities.
The court added, “When the matter relates to the payment of compensation to land losers, if at all, two views are possible… but the view that advances the cause of justice is always to be preferred rather than the other view, which may draw its strength only from technicalities.”

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