Reliance Industries Limited, in the Gujarat high court, has challenged the constitutional validity of a clause in the controversial land acquisition bill that grants the land acquired by the industries back to farmers if not compensated for and possessed within five years of award.
The petition from the petrochemical giant comes after farmers moved the HC in August 2014 demanding their land acquired by RIL for its Special Economic Zone building at Khavdi in Jamnagar district in Gujarat since 2006 be returned.
“Farmers, citing Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, have demanded their 30 hectares, part of 4,494 hectares across five villages, land back. They say under Section 24(2), land acquired for private purposes should be returned if compensation is not paid and if farmers retain land for five years or more,” said the advocate of the farmers, Anand Yagnik.
The RIL, however, refused to comment. “Since the matter is sub-judice and our version/arguments are before the Honorable High Court, we have no comments to make at this juncture,” said Parimal Nathwani, group president (corporate affairs), RIL, in an SMS reply to HT.
According to sources, RIL has called this clause ‘arbitrary’.
The farmers are from villages including Kanachhikari, Derachhikari, Kanalus, Navagam and Padana.
Section 24(2), commonly known as the retrospective clause, had been a major bone of contention when the bill had become a law. The NDA’s ordinance on the UPA’s land bill also aimed to dilute some provisions of the retrospective clause. But the controversial land ordinance was finally allowed to lapse after widespread criticism.
The debate over the retrospective clause, however, is not over yet. The Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament that is currently reviewing the land bill is yet to discuss the provision related to the retrospective clauses and submit its suggestions.