This Bill is officially known as Right to fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013.The Monsoon session of the Parliament saw the passing of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013 that shall set to be repealing and replacing the century old Land Acquisition Act, 1894 that had been governing Land acquisitions in India. This Bill of 2013 is set to establish a fair and a strong structure for land acquisition in India and lays down a list of legal prerequisites that are mandatory required to be first discharged before setting in motion the land acquisition process. This Bill aims to provide for fair compensation to the affected land owners and provide for transparency in the process of land acquisition. The primary highlight of this Bill is that it provides for rehabilitation and resettlement of all those persons who have been displaced from their land by such compulsory acquisition and have been adversely affected and impacted from the loss of their only source of livelihood.
The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in India on 7 September 2011. Out of the 235 members who voted on the bill, 216 backed it while 19 voted against it. The Act was passed on 29 August 2013 in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian parliament) and on 4 September 2013 in Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Indian parliament). The bill received the assent of the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 27 September 2013. The Act came into force from 1 January 2014.It is very important topic from PI/WAT point of view for many institutes. You don’t need to know in much detail (unless you are a law aspirant), as there are 157 amendments made to the old Bill. Just the highlights of the current Bill and why was there a need for this Bill (shortcomings of the old Bill) – these two sub topics should give you enough content to cover the nitty-gritties of this Bill.
Why is there a need for a new Bill?
Forced acquisitions: Under the 1894 legislation once the acquiring authority has formed the intention to acquire a particular plot of land, it can carry out the acquisition regardless of how the person whose land is sought to be acquired is affected.
No safeguards: There is no real appeal mechanism to stop the process of the acquisition. A hearing (under section 5A) is prescribed but this is not a discussion or negotiation. The views expressed are not required to be taken on board by the officer conducting the hearing.
Silent on resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced: There are absolutely no provisions in the 1894 law relating to the resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by the acquisition.
Urgency clause: This is the most criticized section of the Law. The clause never truly defines what constitutes an urgent need and leaves it to the discretion of the acquiring authority. As a result almost all acquisitions under the Act invoke the urgency clause. These results in the complete dispossession of the land without even the token satisfaction of the processes listed under the Act.
Low rates of compensation: The rates paid for the land acquired are the prevailing circle rates in the area which are notorious for being outdated and hence not even remotely indicative of the actual rates prevailing in the area.
Litigation: Even where acquisition has been carried out the same has been challenged in litigation on the grounds mentioned above. This results in the stalling of legitimate infrastructure projects.
Recent observations by the Supreme Court: Justice Ganpat Singhvi of the Supreme Court has observed, in the wake of repeated violations that have come to light over the last few months, that the law has “become a fraud”. He observed that the law seems to have been drafted with “scant regard for the welfare of the common man”. Another bench of the Supreme Court has echoed this sentiment in its observation that “The provisions contained in the Act, of late, have been felt by all concerned, do not adequately protect the interest of the land owners/persons interested in the land. The Act does not provide for rehabilitation of persons displaced from their land although by such compulsory acquisition, their livelihood gets affected …To say the least, the Act has become outdated and needs to be replaced at the earliest by fair, reasonable and rational enactment in tune with the constitutional provisions, particularly, Article 300A of the Constitution. We expect the law making process for a comprehensive enactment with regard to acquisition of land being completed without any unnecessary delay.”
Layman Highlights of the Bill:
A Comprehensive Process: This Bill provides for a fair and transparent process of land acquisition for public purpose. The Bill clearly defines public purpose and provides for Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to be conducted before issuance of notification regarding acquisition of land. This SIA report is to be examined by an expert body that is to include besides other members, 2 persons representing Panchayati raj institutions. This expert committee shall be deciding as to the legitimacy of the project and thereby keeping the interest and concerns of land owners on board in the process of land acquisition. This report shall be in public domain and shall be available for scrutiny of the general public. The Bill also provides that consent of the affected parties or persons from land acquisition is bound to be taken before setting in motion the process of acquisition. The Bill also provides for public hearing after release of notification notifying land acquisition and provides for hearing in respect of finalization of Scheme of resettlement and rehabilitation.
Compensation: The most unique feature of the bill is that it provides for compensation to affected parties along with provision for resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected parties. The bill proposes clear guidelines for payment of compensation. This bill provides that in case of rural properties and urban properties, compensation of 4 times the market rate of land and 2 times of market rate of land shall be provided to the affected parties for releasing their land in favor of land acquisition by government. The Bill provides that affected parties shall be rehabilitated and resettled by providing allowance for resettlement and employment and thereby takes into consideration the interest of land owners and endeavors to mitigate the harmful impact of land acquisition.
Retrospective operation: This Bill is retrospective in operation and is aimed as the title of the bill suggests for providing fair compensation to affected parties and provides for transparent process of land acquisition. This Bill shall be applicable to all those land acquisitions where compensation has not been provided or where award has not been passed or where possession of land has not been taken. Fresh land acquisition proceedings shall be initiated under this Bill 2013.
Safeguards against displacement: The law provides that no one shall be dispossessed until and unless all payments are made and alternative sites for the resettlement and rehabilitation have been prepared. The Bill even lists the infrastructural amenities that have to be provided to those that have been displaced.
Compensation for livelihood losers: In addition to those losing land, the Bill provides compensation to those who are dependent on the land being acquired for their livelihood.
Caps on acquisition of multi-crop and agricultural land: The bill also endeavors to safeguard agricultural land and food security and thereby direct the respective state governments to impose limits on the acquisition of land under agricultural cultivation.
Consent: In cases where PPP projects are involved or acquisition is taking place for private companies, the Bill requires the consent of no less than 70% and 80% respectively (in both cases) of those whose land is sought to be acquired. This ensures that no forcible acquisition can take place.
Return of non-utilized land: The Bill also provides that in case where the acquired land is not utilized for the public purpose for which it had been undertaken then, it shall be either returned back to the respective land owner or shall go into the State Land Bank.
Share in appreciated land value: The Bill also provides that in case where there is sale of the land acquired through land acquisition to the third party and this is sold at 40 per cent of the appreciated value, than the profits are to be shared with the land owners.
Special safeguards for SC/ST: The bill also provides that rights of Scheduled tribes and scheduled caste under Forest Rights Act 2006 shall not be affected under the land acquisition bill and they shall be continued to be provided with their age-old traditional dwellers rights of fishing etc. The Bill also provides that no scheduled land shall be acquired for land acquisition under the Bill and in case of acquisition; consent of Gram Sabha shall be mandatorily required to be taken. The new Bill has special enhanced benefits (outlined in a dedicated chapter) for those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Exemption from income tax and stamp duty: The bill also provides that no stamp duty or income tax shall be paid in respect of released land under the bill or compensation received under the Bill.
This Bill of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement is a path defining law on land acquisition that has served the dual purpose of providing transparent land acquisition process and also providing for fair compensation to the affected parties. This Bill truly from its provisions illustrates that processes of land acquisition can be undertaken with consideration of interest of all classes involved and can emerge as a winner for the cause of public interest for which it is undertaken and serve the interest of parties deeply affected be land acquisition.
If you are interested, a more detailed explanation is given in the Ministry of Rural Development website.