Senior counsel S Muralidhar, appearing for the state government agency, told a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that “to allay any misapprehension” of ArcelorMittal, the board had on November 6 withdrawn its notices, which though were “germane to the issue and vital for proper adjudication” of the case.
New Delhi: The world’s largest steel producer, ArcelorMittal , on Monday withdrew its petition seeking the Supreme Court’s clearance to return 2,643 acres it had acquired for a proposed six-million-tonne steel project in Karnataka. This after the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board ( KIADB ) revoked its show-cause notices issued in February and March this year threatening to reclaim the land. Senior counsel S Muralidhar, appearing for the state government agency, told a bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that “to allay any misapprehension” of ArcelorMittal, the board had on November 6 withdrawn its notices, which though were “germane to the issue and vital for proper adjudication” of the case. The bench took on record the board’s stand and also the submissions of senior counsel AM Singhvi, who represented ArcelorMittal, to withdraw its petition in view of the latest developments. “No purpose would be served to keep the matter alive,” the apex court said. Earlier, the steel producer had argued that due to protracted litigation and uncertainty, it was “desirous” of returning the land it had acquired and was willing to forfeit the Rs 267 crore compensation paid to KIADB. The company said the proposal was to acquire 4,856 acres, but it was allotted only 2,643 acres. The apex court had on January 31 asked ArcelorMittal to pay an enhanced compensation of more than Rs 30 lakh each for 234.40 acres of land. The order came on a petition by a group of farmers who sought enhanced compensation for their land acquired by KIADB in 2010 in the Bellary district for the ArcelorMittal project. Four days after the SC judgement, KIADB issued a show-cause notice purporting to terminate its 2018 lease-cum-sale agreement with the company for the allotted land. Terming this as "completely illegal and arbitrary", ArcelorMittal stated in the top court that it was prepared to “surrender” the entire allotted land of 2,643 acres, but pleaded that it be returned to the landowners from whom it was acquired with no liabilities foisted upon it, and not to KIADB. The company said it was ready to forfeit the money paid to the state agency in 2010 towards the entire acquisition. While KIADB had earlier alleged that the company failed to utilise the land since 2010, the latter said the agency did not allot a promised central piece of 136.33 acres that could have made the entire land contiguous. "The lack of availability of contiguous land rendered the petitioner (ArcelorMittal) unable to obtain the sanctions and permissions for the commencement of construction," the company’s petition had said. Also, the continued uncertainty over the enhanced compensation for another 242 acres, which is still in litigation, has engulfed the entire project with uncertainty. The state too caused considerable delay in issuing requisite mining leases, which were essential for setting up the plant, according to the petition filed through counsel Mahesh Agarwal.