The Orissa High Court on Friday refused to grant an interim stay on acquisition of forest land by state government for the Rs 54,000-crore greenfield steel project of South Korean steelmaker Posco.
The court, however, stayed land acquisition of private land in Posco project area ordering status quo.
In May this year, Nishakar Khatua and five others of Gobindpur village under Dhinkia panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district – where the proposed 12 million tonne per annum capacity steel plant is proposed to be set up – filed two separate the PILs stating that the forest clearance granted to the company has been done contrary to Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006.
A division Bench comprising of Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice BN Mahapatra, however, ruled that staying land acquisition in forestland area would not be in public interest for a project of this scale. But the Bench stayed land acquisition notification under Section 6(1) of LA Act for private land in the project area ordering that status quo be maintained.
Petitioners' lawyer and senior advocate, Jayant Das said they would move another petition before the court to seek a stay on tree-felling by Posco in the acquired land.
Posco needs 3719.22 acre of land for its 12 million tonne steel mill and has so far acquired over 2000 acres, which is all government land. But it has not been able to make any headway in the all-important villages of Dhinkia and Govindpur under Dhinkia grampanchayat. The private land is spread over an area of about 437.66 acres, which Posco says it does not need at the moment.
The petitioners prayed for quashing forest clearance granted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for the project and halting the land acquisition.
Nishakar Khatua, along with Bairagi Charan Nayak, Pramod Bardhan, Debendra Swain, Tushar Kanti Dalei and Nityananda Behera had filed the petitions in the high court challenging the forest clearance and other approvals granted by the Union and the state governments to the Posco project.
In their first PIL, petitioners claimed that they are directly affected by the illegal order purporting to forest clearance and diversion of forest land to Posco as they belong to ‘other forest dwellers’ as per the Forest Rights Act.
In the second PIL, the petitioners had stated that the state government had issued notification under Section 4 of Land Acquisition Act for