THE RIGHT TO FAIR COMPENSATION AND TRANSPARENCY IN LAND ACQUISITION, REHABILITATION AND RESETTLEMENT ACT, 2013

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The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, (Act No. 30 of 2013) came into force on 1st January, 2014 by replacing the Land Acquisition Act 1894. In 2011, a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill was introduced in both Houses of Parliament and was passed in September 2013. The Bill received the assent and signature of the President on 26thSeptember, 2013. The Act applies to whole of India excluding the  Jammu and Kashmir. The object of the Act is to provide a humane, transparent and participative land acquisition process by any  Government and to give just and reasonable compensation to the affected people and also to provide provisions for rehabilitation and resettlement of affected persons.

Land acquisition refers to the process by which government forcibly acquires private property for public purpose. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 governed all such acquisitions. The 1894 Act does not provide for rehabilitation and resettlement for those affected by land acquisition. Thus, The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 was enacted by the Parliament of India thereby rescind The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

Section 2 of the Act enumerates the purposes for which appropriate Governments are authorized to acquire land from its rightful owners. Section 4 of the Act contains the preliminary procedures to be carried out by the Governments in the process of land acquisition. Under section 4, the concerned Government is required to consult with the local self-government bodies established under the Constitution of India such as the Panchayat, Muncipality or Muncipal Corporation before acquisition of a particular property. The consultation may be made by way of a notification declaring the need to carry out a Social Impact Assessment study in proposed area to be acquired by the Government. The notification shall also contain the manner of the study and the date of commencement of the procedures.

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Section 5 and 6 of the Act provides for ensuring transparency in the land acquisition procedures by making it mandatory for the concerned Governments to conduct public hearings in the affected areas and by publishing the reports of the study in local languages. Section 7 of the Act requires the concerned Governments to ensure that the Social Impact Assessment Report is evaluated by an independent multidisciplinary expert group. Section 16 makes the concerned Governments to conduct a survey and undertake the census of the affected area so as to prepare a Rehabilitation and resettlement Scheme.

Section 26-30 of the Act requires the Collector to make assessment of the market value of the land to be acquired and to calculate the final compensation amount to be given to the owner by considering the market value of the land and the value of all other assets in that property. In rural areas, the market value of the land will be multiplied by a factor of  at least one to two times the original market value and in urban areas it will be multiplied by a factor of one times the original market value. In addition to the compensation amount, the Collector shall award a Solatium amount equivalent to one hundred percent of the total compensation amount to the person whose land has been acquired.

 Chapter V of the Act (Sections 31-42) contains the provisions relating to rehabilitation and resettlement award and Chapter VI (Sections 43- 47) contains the procedure and manner of rehabilitation and resettlement. The Act also provides for the establishment of a National Monitoring Committee for reviewing and monitoring the implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement schemes. Under Chapter VIII of the Act, an authority named ‘The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority’ is established for the purpose of providing speedy disposal of the disputes relating to land acquisition, compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement.

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In the case of Pune Muncipal Corporation and Anr.v. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki and Ors.  (Civil Appeal No. 877 of 2014), the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Supreme  Court R. Lodha observed that, “the 2013 Act puts in place entirely new regime for compulsory acquisition of land and provides for new scheme for compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to the affected families whose land has been acquired or proposed to be acquired or affected by such acquisition.” But in a developing country like India, where a large proportion of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood, the Act will have a direct impact on the stability of the economy as a whole since a major portion of India’s Gross Domestic Product is derived from agriculture. Moreover the provisions (section 105) of the Act excludes some 13 central legislation specified in the IV Schedule including Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, The Railway Act 1989, The National Highways Act 1956, The Electricity Act, 2003 etc  from its purview. So there still remains the possibility that, majority of the acquisition process will be done in a forced manner. Similar dramas will continue and millions of people will be evicted from their land and shelters which is a sheer injustice in the name of development.