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Land acquisition made easy through ordinance; Opposition criticize amendments took soul out of act.

Right for fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act , 2013. Image Courtesy: Google

Government is quite serious about bringing economic reforms. The Center recommended an ordinance to make significant changes to the Land Acquisition Act so as to fast-track projects in key sectors such as power, roads, defence and housing.

Changes brought in the Land acquisition act by Ordinance are:

Introduction of Section 10A to Land Acquisition Act, 2013:

Exemption from compulsory consent (of the land owners) and social impact assessment for land acquisition for various PPP projects – such as defence and defence production, rural infrastructure (including electrification), housing for poor (including affordable housing), industrial corridors and infrastructure projects (including projects taken up under the public-private partnership mode). Clause of compulsory consent for private projects is however retained.

Reduced the scope of retrospective clause Section 24:

While the Section 24 of the land acquisition act, extends the compensation provision of the act to the lands acquired five years or more before the commencement of the new act but compensation has not been paid or possession has not been taken, even if the the acquisition has been stuck due to litigation. The ordinance has amended this section to exclude the time spent under the litigation in calculating five years period in case the stay order has been passed leading to acquisition being held up.

Government sanctions must before prosecuting the civil servants :

Under Section 87 original act, faulting civil servant was liable to penalize and punished for offence under this act if found guilty. However, ordinance has substituted this section with a new one, which says that civil servants can be prosecuted only after taking sanction from the appropriate government.

Relaxation in period to return unutilized land:

Under Section 101 of the original act, the unutilized land should be returned after five years, however, with ordinance has amended this provision with the change in period from ‘period of five years’ to ‘period specified for setting up of any project or for five years, whichever is later.’

Amendment in Section 105 of Land Acquisition Act, 2013

13 Central laws related to land acquisition have been brought under purview of this act. Earlier they were kept out of the purview of the land acquisition act. The Centre was required to bring notification before 31st December (within a year) in regard to extending provisions relating to the compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation to the affected families, whose land has been acquired under these central laws. As these central laws could not be brought in for amendments in the house, changes were made through amendment. Thus, now the provision of compensation and rehabilitation are applicable to the land acquired under these central laws.

The list of the central laws:

  • The Ancient Monuments and Archeological sites and Remains Act, 1958;
  • Atomic Energy Act, 1962;
  • The Damodar Valley Corporation Act, 1948;
  • Indian Tramways Act, 1886;
  • The Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885;
  • The Metro Railways (Construction of works) Act, 1978;
  • The National Highways Act, 1956; The Petroleum and Minerals Pipeline (Acquisition of Right of User of land) Act, 1962;
  • The Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable property Act, 1952;
  • The Resettlement of Displaced person (Land Acquisition) Act, 1948;
  • The Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957;
  • The Electricity Act, 200,3 and T
  • he Railways Act, 1989.

Power to remove difficulties in implementation of this act extended (Section 113):

The power of government to remove difficulties in implementation of this act was given for two years under the original act. With this power government was allowed to make provision or give such directions which inconsistent with the act to remove the difficulty. However, with the ordinance, the period has been extended for five years. It means government can exercise its power to bring in any such provision not in line with the land act to remove the difficulties in implementation for next five years.   

Why Ordinance?

Several states, including those ruled by Congress, government departments and industry had repeatedly criticised the law, which set the time frame for acquisition at 50 months, saying it would lead to huge cost escalations. Kerala and Karnataka had slammed the Act saying the identification of land owners was a Herculean task. States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu saw the Act as an infringement upon their autonomy.

Also to eliminate the procedural difficulties in the acquisition of lands required for important national projects amendments were proposed through ordinance so as to expeditiously meet the strategic and developmental needs of the country without compromising on farmer’s welfare.

Criticism over ordinance:

Opposition highly criticized this move of Centre, as opting to the ordinance route instead of debates and discussion in the legislating house, is not in line with democratic principles.

Activists also criticized the amendments saying that the social impact assessment and compulsory consent were at the core of the act, which was provided for the security of the land owners and farmers, however, removal of these provisions has diluted the act.

While the ordinance route and changes brought in by it were highly criticized, industries have welcomed this move of government. Simplified land acquisition procedure is very important for the growth of affordable commercial industries and thus this amendment will boost the sentiments of investors as well as businesses, they argued.

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