The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday set aside the Gujarat High Court order, which allowed the Adani Ports SEZ to reportedly take over 34 acres adjacent to the Mundra Port, which it claimed belonged to the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) as its land.
The matter was sent back to the High Court for a new decision. The apex court also asked the Union government to develop a mechanism so that its department does not take a different stand before the court. Attorney General R Venkataramani has been asked to look into the issue.
The CWC had moved the apex court saying that the Adani Port Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) had made misrepresentations to the authorities to take its 34 acres allegedly adjacent to the Mundra Port in Gujarat.
In its appeal, CWC challenged the Gujarat HC Division Bench’s order asking CWC to obtain approval or waiver as a SEZ compliant unit from the competent authority in respect of its warehouse facility located on the said 34 acres within the SEZ Area developed by APSEZ.
When the CWC failed to obtain the said approval within three months, APSEZ was directed to acquire land of equal size outside the SEZ area for the construction of warehouse facilities within one year.
The appellant (CWC) was established by the Government of India in 1957 to provide support to the agricultural sector by operating warehouses and Container Transport Stations across the country. It became a statutory company in 1962.
On the other hand, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) had given a lease of undeveloped land within the New Mundra Port Limits to Gujarat Adani Port Limited (GAPL) in 2001. The lease was for 30 years.
In 2004, GAPL leased a plot of land measuring about 34 acres to CWC to set up a warehouse to be used for storage and handling of food grains, notified commodities and related activities. The lease of the land is for a period up to 16 February 2031. After being granted the lease, CWC set up two Godowns each with a capacity of 33,000 MT.
When the Special Economic Zones Act 2005 came into effect, the CWC made a representation to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for the demarcation/denotation of 34 acres of land from the SEZ. Until 2017, there were no obstacles for CWC to use the area. However, in 2017, CWC was stopped from using the premises by Adani Ports.
The panel of Justices BR Gavai and CT Ravikumar also expressed their displeasure on Thursday over the conflicting views of the two Ministries in this case. While the Ministry of Trade and Industry said the demarcation/denotation of 34 acres of land from the SEZ was not possible, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs said it was possible.
Saying that the conflicting views of various departments need to be sorted out at the government level, the court sent the matter back to the High Court for further consideration.