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ArcelorMittal tells SC it is “desirous” of returning 2643 acres it acquired for Karnataka steel plant


Bogged down by protracted litigation and uncertainty over land acquisition, world’s largest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, on Friday told the Supreme Court that it was “desirous” of returning 2643 acres it acquired for its proposed six-million tonne steel plant in Karnataka, and is ready to give up the Rs 267 crore compensation paid to the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB).

A bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while issuing notice to KIADB and others, asked the board to inform by October 30 if it was willing to return 2643 acre to farmers or retain it after paying compensation to them.

The apex court had on January 31 asked ArcelorMittal to pay enhanced compensation of more than Rs 30 lakh each for 234.40 acre of land after a group of farmers had challenged the decision to re-examine their plea for enhanced compensation for their land out of 4865.64 acre acquired in 2010 in the Ballary district.
Four days after the SC judgment, KIADB issued a show-cause notice purporting to terminate the 2018 lease cum sale agreement and resume the possession of the allotted land.

Terming the act of resumption as “completely illegal and arbitrary,” senior counsel AM Singhvi and counsel Anshuman Srivastava, appearing for Arcelor Mittal India, argued that the company was prepared to “surrender” its entire allotted land of 2643 acres, but instead of resumption by KIADB, the acquired “high value” lands should be returned to the landowners with no liabilities foisted upon it. The company further stated that it was ready to “forfeit” Rs 267 crore it paid way back in 2010 towards the entire acquisition.

The company said that the initial acquisition was for 4856 acres, but it was allotted only 2643 acres.

KIADB was seeking to “unjustly enrich itself” at its cost. On one hand, Arcelor risks to lose hundreds of crores it had paid and on the other, KIADB wants to resume the lands, thus causing irreparable and irreversible damage and prejudice to the company, senior counsel AM Singhvi and counsel Anshuman Srivastava argued.

While KIADB alleged that the company had failed to utilise the land since 2010, the latter said that KIADB failed to allot the promised 136.33 acre, which was the central piece that could make the entire land contiguous. “The lack of availability of contiguous land rendered the petitioner (Arcelor) unable to obtain the sanctions and permissions for the commencement of construction,” the appeal filed through counsel Mahesh Agarwal stated.

Besides, the continued uncertainty over the enhanced compensation for another 242 acre, which is still pending in various litigations in the state, has engulfed the entire project with uncertainty, it added. The state too caused considerable delay in issuing requisite mining leases, which were essential for setting up the steel plant, according to the appeal.


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