The Act, which came into force from August 29, 2020, as well as the rules framed under the Act have been challenged on grounds of “arbitrariness”, "vagueness" and "repugnance".
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court led by Chief Justice Aravind Kumar on Wednesday began hearing of nearly 100 petitions challenging the constitutionality of Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020.
The bunch of petitions moved by various affected or accused parties under the Act across several districts, apart from constitutionally challenging the law and seeking that the provisions be struck down, have also pleaded for relief based on the individual circumstances of the case such as stay or quashing of proceedings initiated against them. The HC has earlier granted interim relief to some petitioners such as stay on order passed by the committee under the Act for initiating proceedings against the accused.
The Act, which came into force from August 29, 2020, as well as the rules framed under the Act have been challenged on grounds of “arbitrariness”, “vagueness” and “repugnance”.
Advocate Virat Popat, representing two Sabarkantha residents — Kamlesh Dave and Pankajkumar Patel — who are also facing prosecution under the Act, contended that under Section 2 of the Act, the definition of “committee” permits the committee headed by the district collector to register an FIR and that mere allegation in the complaint would suffice for the committee to direct police to register an FIR.
Popat also submitted that section 2 (d), which defines “land grabbed” and section 2 (e) which defines “land-grabbing” indicates prospective operation, that is the effect of the law would come into force after the commencement of Act, while section 4(2) indicates at retrospective application.
It was also pointed out that the Act violates Article 14 of the Constitution (equality before law) as there is no provision of statutory appeal which is “a right vested to a litigant.”
Pointing out that private land also comes under the purview of the Act, Popat submitted that such an inclusion is violative of Article 14 and Article 20 as there may be a dispute between two private individuals which in turn would then be governed by this Act.
With respect to registration of FIR and cognisance of complaint, it was contended by the advocate that at the time of registration of FIR there is no provision permitting intervention of the court and “that would give unbridled police power to the committee to settle scores.”
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