The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on February 24, 2015. The Bill amends the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act). The 2015 Bill aims to alter the LARR Act, 2013 as it was criticised for strangling economic growth by making it difficult for the industries to acquire agricultural land.
This Bill introduced some changes in the old Act but was passed by the Lok Sabha with some changes. The first major change that was introduced was regarding the consent required. The LARR Act, 2013 stated that consent of 80% of land owners was required for private projects, consent of 70% of land owners is required for public-private partnerships and no consent is required for government projects. The 2015 Bill exempted 5 types of projects from seeking consent and they are:
- Rural infrastructure
- Affordable housing
- Industrial corridors
- Infrastructure and social infrastructure including Public Private Partnership where the government owns the land.
The Lok Sabha passed this consent provision by excluding social infrastructure from the exempted category of projects. It also defined industrial corridors as those set up by the government/government undertakings, up to 1 km on the either side of the road/railway corridor.
The second important point was the Social Impact Assessment (SIA). The LARR Act 2013 provides that SIA is mandatory for all projects except in cases of urgency or in cases of irrigation where an environment impact assessment is required. The Bill states that the government can exempt all those five categories mentioned in the consent clause from this provision as well by issuing a notification in the Official Gazette. Lok Sabha passed this provision with an addition that the government before issuing a notification should ensure that the land being acquired is being kept within the land required.
The third important aspect is regarding the Irrigated multi cropped land. The LARR Act 2013 provided that the irrigated multi cropped land cannot be acquired without the limit specified by the government. The Bill allows the government to exempt projects falling under the five categories mentioned in the consent clause from this provision as well by issuing a notification to that effect. The Bill was passed by making the same addition as made in the SIA provision.
The fourth important provision is regarding the compensation and rehabilitation & resettlement provisions of 13 other laws which govern land acquisition. The LARR Act 2013 excluded 13 other Acts from its ambit and also required that the compensation and rehabilitation & resettlement provisions given under these 13 Acts be brought in consonance with the LARR Act. The Bill does not bring about any changes with regard to this provision.
The fifth important aspect is regarding the retrospective application of the Act. The LARR Act 2013 provided that the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 would continue to apply in those cases where an award has been passed under the 1894 Act. However, if the award was made five years or more before the enactment of the 2013 Act, and the possession of land has not been taken or compensation had not been paid, the 2013 Act would apply. The Bill states that in calculating this time period, the following will not be included: (i) any period during which the process of acquisition was held up due to an order of a court; (ii) a period specified by a Tribunal for taking possession; and (iii) any period where possession was taken but the compensation was lying deposited in a court/designated account. This provision was passed unchanged.
The sixth change was regarding the definition of ‘private company’ which was altered to private entity in the 2015 Bill. The LARR Act was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies. The Bill changed this to acquisition for private entities. A private entity is defined as an entity other than a government entity, and could include a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or another entity under any other law. This provision was also passed unchanged.
The last change is regarding the provision of Offences by the government. The LARR Act 2013 had provided that if an offence was committed by a government department then the head of that department would be deemed guilty unless he can show that he had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence. The Bill deleted this provision and was passed as it is by the Lok Sabha.
With these changes the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha but the government was forced to refer this controversial land acquisition Bill to the Parliamentary Committee because of the opposition from other political parties. The government is open to all kind of suggestions and is sticking to its stand that it is a pro-farmer Bill.
Ii is in fact a blessing in disguise that the land acquisition Bill is progressing slowly, since passing the Bill in haste harmful. There is no denying the fact that having a difficult procedure to acquire land makes it difficult for the industries to grow but the farmer’s interest is also to be kept in mind in a country like ours where the major population of the country is in the rural belt and is dependent on agriculture, animal husbandry and the like. The government should ensure that a balance is maintained between the interests of the industries and farmers. That is to say if the country hopes to become industrially sound and is aiming at the expansion of the industrial sector then land should be given to the industries but the farmers should also be adequately compensated for giving away their lands and not be left empty handed. One can hope that the government delivers what it promises, while the country awaits the Ache Din…!!
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 Bill Summary – The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015, available at www.prsindia.org (last visited on 25 May 2015)
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By Arushi Malik