SC dismisses plea against TN Land Acquisition Act

SC dismisses plea against Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Act

The bench noted that the Act is well laid ­out and it is not cryptic in any manner so as to play a fraud upon the mandate of the Constitution

The top court noted that the state government letter to the President stated that the law made by the Parliament rendered the three enactments repugnant and out of operation owing to the Madras High Court judgment. Credit: PTI file photo

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a batch of writ petitions challenging the validity of Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 concerning highways, industries and Harijan welfare schemes.

“We hold the 2019 Act to be a legitimate legislative exercise and find it to be consistent with and within the four corners of Article 254 of the Constitution of India and also of the High Court judgment," a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said.

The bench noted that the Act is well laid ­out and it is not cryptic in any manner so as to play a fraud upon the mandate of the Constitution.

“More importantly, the concerned constitutional bodies i e, legislative assembly, Governor and President have understood the substance of what is placed before them. We are concerned with the substance of the legislation, and not its form," the bench said.

The Madras High Court in July 2019 had held that three land acquisition laws enacted by Tamil Nadu legislature - Tamil Nadu Highway Act 2001, Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act 1997, and Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Scheme Act 1978 – are repugnant to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, passed by Parliament.

The High Court ruled all acquisitions done under these three Acts would be illegal from September 27, 2013, the date on which Centre’s Act received the presidential assent.

Subsequently, the state government brought in 2019 Act, which received the presidential assent on December 2, 2019.

A group of petitioners led by G Mohan Roa contended the state enactments violated Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution on account of unreasonable classification between those persons whose lands were acquired for industrial purposes and those whose lands are acquired for other purposes thereby impacting their right to trade and occupation coupled with right to livelihood.

The petitioners argued that the actual repugnancy was not pointed out to the President while obtaining assent and thus, requirements of Article 254(2) remained unfulfilled.

The bench noted that the mandate of Article 254 required placing the state law before the  President for his/her consideration for permitting the State law to prevail over a specific law made by the Parliament.

“In other words, there can be no general assent against all laws made by the Parliament operating on the subject. The judicial review of assent does not permit examining whether the assent was rightly or wrongly or erroneously given," the bench said.

The top court noted that the state government letter to the President stated that the law made by the Parliament rendered the three enactments repugnant and out of operation owing to the Madras High Court judgment.

It also stated that the state has considerable interest, having a strong bearing on the public exchequer, in saving and reviving the three state enactments.

"Suffice it to say that the communication was in compliance with the mandate of Article 254 as well as with the decision of this Court in Kaiser­ I­ Hind Pvt Ltd. We see no reason to intervene on this ground," court said.

The bench noted that the effect of the 2019 Act was to change the law retrospectively and not to overrule the judgment of the High Court.

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