HC stays govt's notification on land acquisition for Sabarimala airport

Aerial view of proposed Sabarimala airport site. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday issued an order staying the Kerala government's notification expediating steps to acquire land for the proposed greenfield Sabrimala airport. A bench headed by Justice Viju Abraham stayed the order while considering a plea submitted by Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly known as Gospel for Asia). 

In the plea, the trust argued that it holds undisputed title over Cheruvally estate which is designated for the construction of the airport. The petitioner claimed that the land acquisition should be termed illegal as the government is not ready to accept the trust as the owners of the land. It is also argued that the notification for land acquisition was issued illegally.

In its preliminary notification issued on March 13, 2024, the government ordered the acquisition of 1000.28 hectares of land for the airport project. The notification listed 441 parcels of land from 47 survey numbers in blocks 19, 21, 22, and 23 of Erumeli South and Manimala villages, as well as 2264.09 acres of the Cheruvally Estate. The notification was issued under Section 11 (1) of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act.

The High Court had stayed the government's order to acquire Cheruvally estate for the project over the Ayana trust's plea in July 2020. Following this, the state government informed the High Court that it has title over the property and the trust holds no rights. 

The airport project has been marred in controversy after people raised protests against land acquisition. As per reports,149 houses with concrete roofing, 74 with tin sheet roofs, and 30 houses with tiled floorings will have to be acquired completely. Six houses with concrete roofs and one with sheet roofs will have to be taken over partially for the project. Outside the estate, six buildings, housing commercial establishments, 98 residential buildings and 117 wells will have to be acquired.

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