The Evolution And Implications Of The Land Acquisition Act In India

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Index

  1. Introduction 
  2. Timeline And Overview Of The Land Acquisition Act In India
  3. Challenges And Necessity For A New Land Acquisition Statute In India
  4. Land Acquisition For National Development And Public Welfare
  5. The Act’s Consistency With Social Engineering Principles
  6. Government Land Acquisition For Public-Private Partnerships And Exemptions Under LARR 2013
  7. Definitions In Land Acquisition And Resettlement
  8. Land Acquisition Process And Public Participation
  9. Contents Of Notification
  10. Procedures And Compensation For Land Acquisition Disputes
  11. Final Declaration Of Land Requirement

Introduction 

Land acquisition in India is the process by which the Union or state government acquires private land for purposes such as industrialization, infrastructure development, or urbanisation. This process includes providing compensation to the affected landowners along with their rehabilitation and resettlement.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR), which came into effect on January 1, 2014, governs land acquisition in India. Prior to this, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was in force.

On December 31, 2013, the President of India issued an ordinance with the mandate to “meet the dual objectives of farmer welfare, coupled with speedily satisfying the strategic and developmental demands of the country.” Throughout its 120-year existence, the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 institutionalised involuntary acquisition with little regard for the rights of those displaced, who were often left without livelihood, security, or community. This colonial-era law lacked an effective consultation process, reflecting the broader premise of land acquisition at the time, which was based on the principle of eminent domain. The legislation assumed that the needs of the State for the common good would always take precedence over the interests of landowners, who were seen as unfortunate “victims of growth.”

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984, highlighted the “sacrifices” of affected individuals who were “unavoidably” deprived of their property rights for the greater societal good. The Land Acquisition Act of 2013 aims to correct this imbalanced development paradigm by making the land acquisition process more equitable and collaborative.

Timeline And Overview Of The Land Acquisition Act In India

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Bill, 2011, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 7, 2011. The Bill was subsequently approved by the Lok Sabha on August 29, 2013, and then by the Rajya Sabha on September 4, 2013. It received the President’s assent on September 27, 2013, and officially went into effect on January 1, 2014. An amendment to the Act was promulgated by the President on May 30, 2015.

The Indian Government enacted the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013, to provide transparent processes for rehabilitation and resettlement and equitable compensation during land acquisition. This Act replaced the former 1894 Land Acquisition Act, which had significant gaps and shortcomings.

The foundation for this Act was laid in 2007 when the UPA administration proposed the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill of 2007. Following this, the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill of 2009 and the Land Acquisition Act of 2009 were introduced in Parliament, but both Bills lapsed. After a thorough examination of the issues related to land acquisition, the National Advisory Council recommended the “National Development, Land Acquisition, Resettlement, and Rehabilitation Act” as a unified piece of legislation, instead of the two separate bills: the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2009 (LAA 2009) and the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill, 2009 (R&R 2009).

The LARR Bill, proposed in 2011, was eventually passed by Parliament in 2013, leading to the creation of a law that governs land acquisition and establishes guidelines for compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement for those affected in India. The Act mandates equitable compensation for landowners who lose their property, ensures greater transparency in the land acquisition process for various projects, and guarantees the rehabilitation of those impacted.

Challenges And Necessity For A New Land Acquisition Statute In India

The need for urbanisation and land has grown significantly due to industry expansion, globalisation, and the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). However, it is crucial to provide reasonable compensation, relocation, and restoration plans for landowners whose properties are acquired by the government. While land is essential for industrialization and economic progress, the affected populations must not suffer due to these acquisitions.

The term “public purpose” has led to substantial issues. The Supreme Court has expanded its definition in cases such as the Yamuna Expressway and the Smt. Somavanti & Ors. case (1962). In some instances, the court has ruled that it is legal to acquire property and transfer it to private firms for projects that do not genuinely serve a public purpose. This broad interpretation and lack of precise criteria are major reasons for the need for new property acquisition regulations.

In cases of eminent domain acquisition by the state or acquisition for a private enterprise connected to a public purpose, previous laws did not provide provisions for relocation and rehabilitation. Although compensation was given, the affected individuals still faced significant hardships.

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Previously, the collector had the authority to determine compensation based on the local market value. However, there was no detailed process for calculating compensation or other rules, leading to instances where landowners were deceived and undercompensated.

The previous law also lacked a provision requiring consent from the property owner before the government could acquire their land. This led to situations like Nandigram, where the government decided to acquire farmers’ land with short notice to establish an SEZ, resulting in significant unrest and opposition.

Section 17 of the 1894 legislation, which included the urgency clause, was another significant flaw. Both the government and private businesses frequently abused this clause, leading to unjust acquisitions and exploitation of landowners.

Land Acquisition For National Development And Public Welfare

The Act’s primary objective is to purchase public lands to enhance national infrastructure and support businesses. This focus on infrastructure development and industrialization drives economic growth, with subsequent goals designed to mitigate any negative effects. The Act also addresses acquiring property for public use, broadly defining “public purpose” to include public well-being. In the 2011 Supreme Court case Dev Sharan v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was stated that land acquisition for public purposes should align with the principles of a welfare state, which prioritises societal and public interests.

The Act’s Consistency With Social Engineering Principles

This legislation aligns with Roscoe Pound’s concept of social engineering, which aims to create a society that effectively meets the needs of all its members. Pound identified three types of interests and they are private, public, and social. The law ensures compensation for all affected families, protecting their individual rights. Rehabilitation and resettlement often lead to improvements in the social and economic conditions of these families, whose means of support and housing have been taken by the government. The statute includes a rehabilitation and resettlement plan to address the changes in their social and economic circumstances.

The objectives of the Act highlight its foundation in both economic and sociological approaches. With a thorough explanation of its purpose, it is evident that the Act integrates these two approaches.

Government Land Acquisition For Public-Private Partnerships And Exemptions Under LARR 2013

The government acquires property for its own use, possession, and control, including for public sector enterprises. This land is ultimately transferred to private corporations for specific public purposes. While projects involving public-private partnerships fall under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013, those related to state or national highway projects do not. The government acquires land for immediate use by private businesses serving public purposes. However, acquisitions under 16 existing laws, such as the Special Economic Zones Act of 2005, the Atomic Energy Act of 1962, and the Railways Act of 1989, are exempt from the Act’s provisions.

Public purposes for land acquisition in India, as defined by Section 2(1) of the Act, include:

  1. Projects essential to national security, defence, or public safety, involving the navy, military, air force, and armed forces of the State, including central paramilitary forces.
  2. Infrastructure projects specified in the Government of India’s Department of Economic Affairs notice number 13/6/2009-INF, dated March 27, 2012, excluding private hospitals, private schools, and private lodging.
  3. Agro-processing projects, provision of agricultural inputs, warehousing, cold storage facilities, and marketing infrastructures for agriculture and related industries like dairy, fisheries, and meat processing, established or owned by the government, a farmers’ cooperative, or a statutory institution.
  4. Mining operations, industrial corridors, and national investment and manufacturing zones as outlined in the National Manufacturing Policy.
  5. Projects providing sanitary facilities and water harvesting structures.
  6. Government-run or supported institutions or programs for education and research.
  7. Projects for sports, healthcare, tourism, and space program transportation.
  8. Any infrastructural facility notified by the Central Government after notifying Parliament.

Additionally:

  1. An initiative aimed at assisting families affected by various projects, including housing initiatives for specific income groups designated by the government.
  2. Providing land for residential purposes to weaker sections in both rural and urban areas, supporting planned development projects, village areas, or any designated urban zones.
  3. Implementing residential projects for impoverished or landless individuals, those residing in disaster-prone regions, or those affected by government, local authority, or state-managed company projects.
  4. When the government declares a public purpose, it can acquire land without the landowner’s cooperation, but it must secure consent from 80% of affected families (or 70% in public-private projects) before acquiring the remaining land for public use. The urgency clause applies only in cases of national defence, security, or rehabilitation due to natural disasters.

Definitions In Land Acquisition And Resettlement

  1. Displaced Family: A “displaced family” signifies any family compelled to relocate from the affected region to the resettlement area due to land acquisition.
  2. Family Definition: Family” encompasses an individual, their spouse, minor children, and minor siblings dependent on them. This definition also includes widows, divorcees, and women deserted by their families, who are considered separate families under this Act.
  3. Interested Persons: An “interested person” comprises individuals eligible for compensation due to land acquisition under this Act, Beneficiaries under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act of 2006, who have relinquished forest rights recognized by the Act. Parties with a vested interest in land-related easements, Tenants protected by State legislation, such as sharecroppers, regardless of nomenclature and individuals whose primary income source is anticipated to be adversely affected.
  4. Resettlement Area: The “Resettlement Area” designates a location where the government relocates households displaced by land acquisition.
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Land Acquisition Process And Public Participation

Land acquisition is permissible solely for public purposes, as defined by the Act. Public purposes include defence, national security, government infrastructure like roads, railways, highways, and ports, projects benefiting affected individuals, planned village or urban development, and housing for the economically disadvantaged. Approval from 80% of affected individuals is necessary in specific circumstances, such as land acquisition for non-specified public use by the government, public-private partnerships, and private corporations.

The appropriate government must conduct a public hearing in the affected area when a social impact assessment is mandated by Section 4. Adequate publicity regarding the date, time, and venue of the public hearing is essential to gather opinions from affected families for inclusion in the social impact assessment report.

The acquisition process commences with a preliminary notification under Section 11 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act of 2013. This notification is issued if the government deems land in rural or urban areas necessary or likely to be required for a public purpose. The notification must be published:

  1. In the Official Gazette.
  2. In two local daily newspapers, including one in the local dialect.
  3. In offices at various administrative levels.
  4. On the government’s website.
  5. The details of the notification must be conveyed to the concerned Gram Sabha or municipality in a dedicated meeting immediately upon issuance.

Contents Of Notification

The notification must contain details about the land to be acquired, the public purpose served, reasons for relocating affected parties, a summary of the Social Impact Assessment Report, and information about the administrator responsible for rehabilitation and resettlement.

Land Transaction Limitations And Survey Authority

During the period from the publication of the preliminary notice until the completion of acquisition procedures, no transactions may occur on the lands mentioned in the notification. The Collector may grant an exemption to the landowner from this restriction under documented unusual circumstances, but the Collector is not liable for any damages resulting from intentional breaches of this provision.

Section 12 empowers officers to conduct a preliminary survey of land. Authorised officers and their personnel may:

  1. Access and survey the land.
  2. Conduct soil drilling or digging.
  3. Perform necessary actions to assess land suitability.
  4. Define acquisition boundaries and proposed activity paths.
  5. Mark levels, borders, and lines through markers and trenches, including clearing obstructions if necessary.

Actions related to land surveying outlined in points (a) to (e) require the presence of the landowner or an authorised person. If the owner has been given adequate notice and a reasonable opportunity to be present (at least sixty days’ notice), the survey may proceed without the owner’s direct presence.

Procedures And Compensation For Land Acquisition Disputes

According to Section 13, officers must compensate for any damage caused to land while surveying or performing tasks necessary to determine its suitability for public use. This compensation covers any harm done during entry under Section 12. If there is a dispute over the adequacy of the compensation, the officer must report to the Collector or another district chief revenue officer, whose decision is final.

Section 15 upholds the principle that property cannot be acquired without providing the owner a fair opportunity to be heard. The preliminary notification aims to gather objections from property owners or interested parties, allowing them to express concerns about the government’s acquisition plans. Objections must be submitted in writing to the Collector within 60 days of the preliminary notification’s publication. The Collector will hear the objections and submit a report with recommendations and cost approximations to the government. The government’s decision on these objections, as mandated by Section 15(3), is binding.

Under Section 16, the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement must prepare a comprehensive scheme following the issuance of a preliminary notification by the Collector. This involves conducting a survey and census of affected families, detailing the lands and properties each household is acquiring, the livelihoods lost by landless individuals, and the public utilities and infrastructure impacted by the acquisition. Additionally, the scheme must account for any common property resources obtained.

The Administrator is tasked with drafting the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Scheme based on the survey and census data. This draft must outline the rehabilitation and resettlement rights for each landowner and landless individual affected by the relocation. It must also set a deadline for the scheme’s implementation and detail the government structures, public amenities, and infrastructure to be provided in the resettlement area. A public hearing must be held in the affected region to disclose these specifics and gather feedback before finalising the draft.

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Section 17 mandates that the Collector consult with the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee established under Section 45 at the project level regarding the draft scheme. Following this consultation, the Collector submits the proposed scheme and his recommendations to the Commissioner of Rehabilitation and Resettlement for approval. 

If approved, Section 18 requires the Commissioner to make the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Scheme publicly available. This includes distributing the scheme in the local language to relevant offices such as the Tehsil, District Collector, Sub-divisional Magistrate, and local government offices. It must also be posted in the affected areas and on the appropriate government website.

Final Declaration Of Land Requirement

Following the consideration of any objections, the appropriate authorities will issue a final statement dismissing the claims. According to Section 19 of the new Act, this final declaration must be published within 12 months of the preliminary notification issued under Section 11. The government must declare the necessity of the land for a public purpose, along with a designated “resettlement area” for the affected families, under the authority of the Secretary to the government or any other authorised officer. Different declarations may be made for various parcels of land covered by the same preliminary notification.

Each declaration must be published as follows: in the Official Gazette, in two daily newspapers (one in the local language), at the Panchayat, Municipality, or Municipal Corporation, and at the offices of the District Collector, Sub-divisional Magistrate, and Tehsil. Additionally, the declaration must be posted on the appropriate government’s website.

The Collector is required to publish a summary of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Scheme alongside the declaration. No disclosure of the declaration is allowed unless this summary is published. This ensures that the affected families are informed about the rehabilitation and resettlement plans.

The “requiring body,” defined in Section 3(zb) as any company, institution, or organisation for which the land is being acquired, must provide a deposit equal to or greater than the cost of acquiring the land. This requirement also applies to the government if the land is being acquired for its own use or for later transfer to another entity for a public purpose.

In accordance with Section 21, the Collector must issue a public notice stating the government’s intention to take possession of the land. This notice invites all interested parties to submit claims for compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement. The notice will be posted at convenient locations on or near the land in question and will be accessible via the Collector’s mail.

The public notice will detail the specific property needed and require all interested parties to appear before the Collector at the specified time and location to submit their claims and any written objections. The timeframe for these submissions must be no less than 30 days and no more than 6 months from the notice’s publication date.

If any interested party resides elsewhere and lacks an agent, the Collector will ensure that the notice is published in at least two national daily newspapers. Additionally, the notice will be mailed to the party’s last known home and business addresses and made available on the Collector’s website.

Under Section 22, the Collector may request any interested party to submit a statement within 30 days. This statement must include the names of all individuals with an interest in the land, such as co-proprietors, sub-proprietors, mortgagees, or tenants, as well as details about their interests and any rents or profits received or due in the three years preceding the statement’s date.

According to Sections 175 and 176 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, individuals required to submit this statement are legally obligated to do so. Section 175 pertains to the omission to produce a document to a public servant, while Section 176 pertains to the omission to give notice or information to a public servant.

The 2013 Act mandates that the minimum compensation must be a multiple of the assessed market value of the property and any attached assets, plus an additional settlement equivalent to 100% of the assessed market value, including the value of any attached assets.

Conclusion

The Land Acquisition Act in India has undergone significant transformations to address the evolving needs of national development and public welfare. The necessity for a new statute was driven by the challenges and inadequacies of the previous laws, which often led to disputes and social unrest. The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (LARR) Act of 2013 aims to balance development needs with the rights of affected communities, ensuring fair compensation and greater public participation in the process. By aligning with the principles of social engineering, the act seeks to foster a more equitable and transparent system. As India continues to grow, the effective implementation of this act is crucial for sustainable development and the well-being of its citizens.

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