Date: 7th January 2015
Hon’ble Shri Pranab Mukherjee
The President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi-110011
Respectful Greetings and good wishes for the New Year, 2015!
We are writing this in the public interest, concerning the Ordinances which are cleared by the union cabinet and issued by your esteemed office, with special reference to the Ordinance which seeks to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 or LAA 2013 (Full name: The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013).
LAA 2013 was enacted after much effort by various people’s movements and political parties, to resolve the conflict due to forcible land acquisition, give farmers their due, and also meet the needs of industrial development. The title of the Act shows that the legislation is meant to help people to claim their rights to transparency and fair compensation when their land is acquired. But now the Ordinance seeks to dilute the people-friendly provisions, notably the need for consent and for conducting the Social Impact Assessment when acquiring land, so as to make it convenient for governments to easily force poor and marginalized people to part with their land and lose their livelihoods against their wishes, to facilitate PPP and private projects to establish themselves.
You would surely be aware that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has categorically held that Ordinance-making power “… is in the nature of emergency power to take action when the legislature is not in session” … and that “… this power is to be used to meet an extraordinary situation and it can not be allowed to be” … “perverted to serve political ends”. But the current Ordinance seeks to bypass due and necessary legislative process, since the matter could and should have been discussed in Parliament, and if that was not possible, by extending the session or by carrying the matter forward to forthcoming session(s). Since there is no emergent or extraordinary situation to justify it, the “Ordinance route” has been held by legally qualified eminent persons, as going against the spirit of the Constitution of India. From the newspaper reports we read your concerns for the same, but we feel that Government must be asked to not take this route as often and bring the matter to the floor of the Parliament.
You are doubtless aware that there are many on-going, intense struggles in most states across India, concerning issues related to land acquisition, displacement, development plans and various “infrastructure” projects. The LAA 2013 was a progressive legislation which, without being against industries and projects, from public to private, gave farmers and land-losers a measure of control over their lives. It took cognizance of the fact that time has come to protect prime agricultural land and minimise displacement. The British legacy had to be left behind. The current Ordinance negates or dilutes what has been achieved by years of sustained efforts by people and initiative by pro-people politicians to get LAA 2013 enacted.
As the custodians of our Constitution of India, we urgently appeal to you to rethink and reject these Ordinances, and advise the government to table the contemplated amendments to LAA 2013 in the forthcoming session of Parliament, so that people’s representatives will be able to democratically discuss the issues involved.
We uphold the constitutional mandate as per the schedule V, to ensure peace and good governance in the scheduled areas, even declaring if necessary, that certain legislation will not be applicable to a scheduled area. Clause 5 of the Fifth Schedule requires the government to review even the existing laws and adapt them to suit the interests of the ST communities. Such a review has not taken place since Independence. Against that background, to impose a regressive land acquisition law on the ST communities residing in the Scheduled Areas is highly objectionable and detrimental to their interests. The amended Act, on the other hand, will bring in unprecedented acquisition, without any consent from the communities, even SC-ST communities, against the mandate.
Hon’ble President, Sir, we would highly appreciate and earnestly request you to stop such gross abuse of law even in the case of the disadvantaged sections. This will cause great injustice, which should be avoided. An immediate directive to exclude scheduled areas from application of this through Governors may go a long way.
With respectful regards,
CC : Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
Shri Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India
Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker, Lok Sabha