Gogoi to draft his own land acquisition law

  • Zia Haq, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2015 00:16 IST

The Congress-ruled Assam will have its own law that will sidestep the changes made to the land acquisition act by the Modi government, a move that could skewer the Centre’s purpose of bringing in an ordinance to speed up infrastructure projects.

“We have unanimously decided we will not implement the central law as it is anti-farmer. We will prepare a new legislation. It will protect the interests of both farmers and industry,” Gogoi told HT.

The Congress has already made known its opposition to the ordinance that made sweeping changes to the land acquisition act, 2013, passed by its government and is planning nation-wide protests.

Though land itself is exclusively a subject in states’ domain, “land acquisition” is a matter placed in the Concurrent List that allows both the Centre and states to legislate on it.

But, Article 254 of the Constitution says if a law enacted by a state is “repugnant” to, or is against a law made by Parliament, then the latter prevails.

On the face of it, Assam, which is to go to the polls in 2016, could well be stepping on the Centre’s toes and the move is likely to be clouded in legal uncertainties. Yet, if Gogoi manages to go around the ordinance by bringing back certain clauses done away by the Modi government, he may set a precedent for other Opposition and eight Congress-ruled states.

“So, Article 254 is clear. If the field is occupied by the Centre, then the state cannot make laws that are repugnant to the central law. But much depends on how the Assam law will specifically impact the central law,” TR Andhyarujina, a constitutional law expert, said.

Former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishawanathan told HT that the president might not choose to approve a law that contradicts the one framed by Parliament. But the courts would still have to first determine whether there was indeed a contradiction, he said.

The cabinet had on December 29 sought to make it easier -- through an ordinance -- acquiring land for security, defence, infrastructure, power and housing sectors.

While the ordinance left the compensation unchanged, it did away with the mandatory approval of 80% of affected landowners and social-impact assessment.

Assam is likely to provide for both — surveys to determine social impact of projects and a provision for consent of larger number of those affected by a takeover. Gogoi, however, didn’t give a timeframe for the draft bill.

Having a state law that required broader consent as well as a social impact survey won’t challenge the central law because the ordinance didn’t outlaw such things, said Madhuresh, an activist with the National Alliance of People’s Movement that works with villagers and farmers.

An ordinance allows the government to enact laws when Parliament is not in session. It stays valid for six months within which Parliament has to ratify it for it to become a law.

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