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Government working on ordinance for changes in Land Acquisition Act
Daily News Analysis, 28 Dec 2014, New Delhi: Government is understood to be working on bringing an ordinance for changes in Land Acqisition Act enacted during the UPA rule. Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh held a lengthy meeting with his ministry officials on Saturday as the government is said to be speeding up the process to bring the ordinance.
The decision to adopt ordinance route is understood to have been taken after government failed to amend as many as 13 central pieces of legislation to bring their R & R (rehabilitation and resettlement) and compensation provisions ot par with those of the new Land Acquisition Act on buying land across the country, sources said.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which came into force on January 1, 2014, had specifically said that the 13 existing central pieces of legislation including the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957, the National Highways Act, 1956, and the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885 have to be amended within a year to bring them on par with provisions of the new legislation.
However, the concerned Ministries including Railways, Power and Home did not work to amend the law as mandated by Section 105 (3) of the new law. The other laws which were to be amended including the Atomic Energy Act, 1962; the Indian Tramways Act, 1886; the Railways Act, 1989; the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958; the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962 and the Damodar Valley Corporation Act, 1948.
The Electricity Act, 2003; Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952; the Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act, 1948 and the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978 were also to be amended as mandated by the new Land Acquisition Act.
Now, the NDA government is learnt to have taken ordinance route to avoid the circumstance created by section 105 of the Land Acquisition Act. However, it is not clear whether the government, in its ordinance, is planning to exclude these laws from the purview of the Land Acquisition Act.
“I have no idea what government is doing. If they do bring an ordinance then it would be yet another nail in the coffin of parliamentary democracy,” former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who played a key role in drafting of the legislation in 2013, said.
If these laws are not amended, the provisions of the new Land Acquisition Act will not be applicable for acquiring land for mining, railways and national highways.
“This will be a very serious step backward,” said former OSD to Ramesh, Advocate Muhammad A Khan, who contributed immensely to the drafting of the legislation.
“Ramesh had ensured that every provision of the new law was backed by intensive public consultation (including with the BJP)- to take into account the impact on the communities who are the principal constituencies affected by such acquisition. The focus should be on implementing the law rather than seeking to abridge it,” said Khan who is an expert on land laws.
When Ramesh was the Minister, he had written twice to all ministers concerned to bring in amendments. The government’s move to bring ordinance is also triggered by demands from industry and the state governments for dilution of the consent and SIA clause of the Act. Industries have complained that the law has made land acquisition very difficult, affecting speedy implementation of projects.
States too have come out openly against the law saying it had hurt the process of acquiring land for infrastructure projects. The Rural Development Ministry, which held consultations with the state governments, has suggested a number of amendments to the Act that will water down provisions such as mandatory consent of at least 70% locals for acquiring land for PPP projects, and 80% for private projects.