The Allahabad High Court has stayed the land acquisition proceedings going on in connection with Maitreya project, which is proposed to be set up in Kushinagar district, till further orders. The court has also issued notice to the Maitreya Project International, which intends to set up a very tall statue of Gautam Buddha, besides other charitable institutions, including a university, as part of the project.
Hearing a petition filed by Krishana Yadav and others, a division bench of Justices Sushil Harkauli and Naheed Ara Moonis, on Wednesday said: “Let notice be issued to the respondent No. 4 (Maitreya Project International) for which steps will be taken within a week. Till further orders dispossession of the petitioners from the land in question will remain stayed.” The court has also directed the state government to file a counter-affidavit within a month. The petitioners, most of whom are marginal farmers from Kushinagar, have been opposing the move to acquire their lands for the project, which is being brought up by a private trust.
“Our main demand in the petition is that the notifications issued by the state government with respect to acquisition for the project shall be quashed. Our argument is that the land is not being acquired for any public purpose. Also, if the project is indeed to be set up, then it has to be dealt on the lines of acquisition that happens for the companies, because a private entity is involved. The farmers are not willing to part with their land in this manner,” said counsel for the petitioners, Ashwani Kumar Mishra.
The notifications for acquisition of around 660 acres of land in Kushinagar for setting up of the project had been first issued in 2004 under Section-4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The subsequent notification of Section-6 of the Act was issued in 2005. After that, the process did not move forward following initial resistance from the farmers.
Last year, after the government changed, there were reports that the Maitreya Project was being shifted to Gaya in Bihar because they were not able to get land in Kushinagar. gs towards the end of 2012. “A couple of meetings were also held between the DM and the farmers late last year. But the latter were not in favour of giving away their lands, following which they decided to approach the court last week,” said Mishra.