With land law hanging fire, projects struggle to take off

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 07, 2015 00:45 IST
The Land Acquisition Bill had earlier seen a lot of protests from agitating farmers. (HT File Photo)

A parliamentary joint committee on the land bill has sought reports from the states and the central government about cases of acquisitions getting lapsed due to a controversial provision of the UPA-era law that has jeopardised hundreds of projects across the country.

Land can be returned to its original owner under section 24 (2) of the UPA law that says any acquisition under the older British-era legislation would be cancelled if the award was made five years or more prior to the new law but compensation was not given. The UPA’s law came into force from January 2014 and replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.

Owners have invoked the section in several parts of the country to get land acquisitions cancelled and courts have declared many such cases as “lapsed” acquisitions.

“The Delhi Development Authority has informed there are a total of 606 pending court cases related to land acquisition proceedings that were initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and as per section 24 of RFCTLARR Act, 2013, the proceedings have been claimed to have lapsed,” the urban development ministry has informed the parliamentary panel which is holding deliberations on the amendments suggested by Modi government.

Advocate Surat Singh — who is fighting the case of some families of the erstwhile Malcha village that was acquired to build the Presidential estate, Parliament house and other government buildings — has met panel chairperson SS Ahluwalia. These families are seeking the cancellation of the acquisition as they have not been paid the compensation for the land acquired around 1912.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld a Bombay high court order to cancel the acquisition of 43.94 acres of land for a ‘Forest Garden’ in Pune on account of non-payment of compensation under the section 24(2). Similar litigations have come up related to Calicut and Coimbatore airports. Lok Sabha sources said the panel also sought report from the home ministry about similar cases on the Indo-Bangladesh border and whether they face the risk of being cancelled.

The controversial land bill by the NDA had sought to amend this section and boost growth but the Opposition vowed to block it due to superior numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha. The section remains the bone of contention between the Opposition and the government, as there is no consensus on how to deal with it.

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