New Delhi, December 11: The Supreme Court has issued a notice to five states in a PIL challenging amendments made by the State Government to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act(Land Acquisition Act), 2013.
The bench comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta issued a notice to the state of Gujarat, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Jharkhand to explain the validity of the amended act.
This came after a PIL was filed by Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar alleging these five states of tweaking and introducing the amendment to the Central Act of 2013 and hence altering the lives of farmers and landowners. As per the tweaked Act, the state could acquire land for social development, industrial corridor and housing projects, even multi-cropped irrigated land without any social impact assessment.
The petition contended:
“The basic structure of the Original central Act and Rule has been changed to give exemption to large categories of projects from consent provisions, Social Impact Assessment, Objections by affected citizens and participation of local bodies etc, thereby violated Fundamental right guaranteed to citizens of India under Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution. Even though “land” is a matter in the State list, the “acquisition and requisitioning of property” finds a place in the Concurrent list. But the State Governments have passed Land Acquisition Acts and Rules for States by amending the provisions of the Central Act passed by Parliament and created conflict by violating the principle that the State Acts cannot overrides Central Acts.”
As per the Central Act, 70% consent of landowners is necessary for Public-Private Participation Project (PPP). PIL also contend that some amendments have removed the consent clause of PPP, paving way for many private projects running under the garb of PPP. In PPP Projects, taxpayers money is spent while acquiring land and creating infrastructure whereas in the profit-making stage private players take away the maximum share. They have also diluted the provision for the return of unutilized land.
The petition further stated,
“The Central Act of 2013 was brought to give effect to pre existing fundamental right to livelihood of citizens. It ensures that livelihood will not be taken away unless: 1) it is in public interest and that is seen by social impact assessment 2) The affected citizens are given rehabilitation. The amendments made without considering the above factors will take away fundamental rights of the citizens.”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan argued that no land could be taken away unless it is essential in public interest and that is to be seen by the social impact assessment.
Seeking to get the amendments made by the states quashed, the petition has also asked the SC to direct the state governments to enforce the original rules for the land acquisition made by the Central Government.
Read the SC order below:42134_2018_Order_10-Dec-2018