Key sticking points of the diluted land acquisition ordinance

Key sticking points of the diluted land acquisition ordinance

The Modi government’s decision to scrap the provisions for social impact assessment and mandatory consent of farmers before acquiring their land for projects, have emerged as the key sticking points in the controversial land acquisition ordinance.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, promulgated by the NDA government on December 30, 2014, has also done away with the requirement to return the land to the farmer if it is not used for the purpose it was acquired for within a five-year time frame.

The original Act, passed by the then UPA government in 2013, had made consent of 80 per cent land owners mandatory before acquisition of land for private projects. The public-private-partnership projects required consent of 70 per cent land owners.

The ordinance waived this provision of the Act if land was acquired for defence, rural infrastructure, affordable housing, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects, including PPP projects where central government owns the land.

In addition, the ordinance permits the government to exempt projects in these five categories from fulfilling some provisions, through a notification. The ordinance states that the period after which unutilised land will need to be returned will be five years, or any period specified at the time of setting up the project, whichever is later.

The 2013 Act had excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions from its purview. The ordinance removes this restriction.

While the original Act was applicable for the acquisition of land for private companies, the ordinance changed this to acquisition for ‘private entities’. The government argued that this was necessary to bring the law in line with the Companies Act, 2013 which defines the word ‘Company’. The mention of ‘private company’ had excluded others such as public company, proprietorship, partnership, non-profit organisations from the provisions of fair compensation.

The UPA Act stated that if an offence is committed by the government, the head of the department would be deemed guilty unless he could show that the offence was committed without his knowledge, or that he had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.

The ordinance replaces this provision and states that if an offence is committed by a government official, he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government.

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