The Mumbai SEZ Ltd, promoted jointly by industrialist Mukesh Ambani and his confidant Anand Jain, runs the risk of being scrapped after the Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the land acquisition process that otherwise has to conclude by June 8.
A Bench headed by Justice B Sudarshan Reddy dismissed the plea of the firm challenging the Bombay high court interim order that refused to stay the process of land acquisition.
MSEZ, which was to come up in an area of 10,000 hectares at an investment of Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion), had last month filed a writ petition before the high court seeking a direction to the Raigad district administration to speed up land acquisition initiated under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1984.
Land acquisition for SEZs has to be completed within two years from the date of approval. The Mumbai SEZ project was given clearance in June 2005 and it has already been given two extensions and the latest deadline expires on Monday.
A stay would have made the deadline redundant. The Supreme Court, however, issued notice to the Maharashtra Government on another plea of MSEZ Ltd seeking transfer of its petition pending before the Bombay high court.
The project ran into trouble after farmers in 22 villages opposed the land acquisition process in a referendum initiated by the state government last year, but the outcome was not legally binding.
Earlier senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for the MSEZ, sought the stay on the land acquisition proceedings initiated by notifications under Sections 4 and 6 on the grounds that if the acquisition is not completed by June 8, the entire process would lapse under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
A stay would have made the deadline redundant.
Side by side, Mumbai SEZ Ltd and its authorised representative Dilipkumar Vitthaldas Dherai also sought a direction to the state government to expedite the land acquisition process for setting up the SEZ in Raigad.
Besides, the company sought a direction to the state government to make and publish awards in respect of lands where consents have been given and sale agreements have been entered into with landowners.
The Bombay high court on May 22 had asked the MSEZ to move the Supreme Court for expediting land acquisition as various public interest petitions pertaining to the issue were pending before the Apex court.