The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (the 1894 Act) was replaced by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act, 2013). The law not only deals with acquisition, but also Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the landowners who are losing the land to such acquisition. The 1894 Act had quite a few defects. In the present Article we’ll be discussing the shortcomings of the 1984 Act as well as the peculiarities of the LARR Act as it had replaced the former.
Need for Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013
There was an indispensable need for replacing the colonial law with the LARR Act, 2013 Act. The Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was extremely outdated despite several amendments that were made to it. Prior to LARR Act, 2013, there was no specific Act for the kind of rehabilitation and resettlement provided under the LARR Act, 2013. The LARR Act, 2013 finally acted as a means to avail rehabilitation and resettlement of the people who were displaced due to the acquisition of their land by the State. Provisions for adequate compensation to the aforementioned persons for the loss of livelihood were also made possible.
Drawbacks of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
It is believed that certain clauses like the urgency clause had been misused multiple times. The Urgency Clause was enshrined in Section 17 of the 1894 Act. Several times in the past, the State Governments have misused clause 4 of the aforementioned section. This clause provided them with an alternative to suspend section 5A which provided the land owner with the option to file objection. This turned into a clear case of arbitrary use of power which further resulted in misuse of this clause. The 1894 Act lacked in providing effective rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected parties. The definition of “public purpose” was too widespread and not clearly defined, which further lead to its misuse. The 1894 Act suffered from a few more defects like low rates of compensation, no provision for rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced parties, etc.
Objects of the LARR Act
As discussed above, the Act recognized the importance of rehabilitation and resettlement post displacement of the landowners. As per the Preamble, the Act aims to develop a transparent and humane process of acquiring land for the purpose of industrialization, urbanisation and development of essential infrastructural facilities, by minimizing the disturbance to the affected parties. The Act aims to provide compensation to the affected parties. The Act was to include necessary provisions concerning the resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected parties. Furthermore, another responsibility was created via the enactment of this Act. Post the acquisition of the land, it was to be ensured that the affected parties would also collaborate in the development that would enhance their social and economic status.
What did the LARR Act introduce?
The new law also introduced quiet a few crucial concepts. Some of them have been discussed below:
Social Impact Assessment
The previous Act i.e., the 1894 Act lacked provisions for Social Impact Assessment (hereinafter referred to as “SIA”). In LARR Act, 2013, SIA could be understood as a preassessment of the positive or negative social consequences of a land acquisition on the lives of the parties affected by the said acquisition. Since the previous Act lacked such an indispensable provision, SIA was added in the LARR Act, 2013. SIA has been contained in Section 4 to Section 9 of the LARR Act, 2013. As per section 4, when the appropriate government intends to acquire a land, they must carry out a SIA in the concerned area. This must be done by consulting the Municipality, Panchayat or Municipal Corporation. The appropriate Government must also ensure that the SIA is done within 6 months from when the SIA was initiated. The assessment must include the following six important areas:
- an assessment as to whether the proposed acquisition serves a public purpose;
- estimation of affected families and the number of families among them likely to be displaced;
- understand the extent to which properties like public and private lands and other settlements like houses and other common properties would be affected by such acquisition;
- if the area of land that is to be acquired comprises of the absolute bare minimum extent that will be required for a project;
- if any other place deems suitable for land acquisition instead of the present one;
- efforts must be made to assess the social consequences of the project, along with the nature and expense of addressing them. Furthermore, the result of these expenses on the total expenditure of the project with regard to the benefits of the project.
Further, the Appropriate Government shall also take efforts to understand how the proposed acquisition would impact the livelihood of affected parties, roads, drainage, public transport, drinking water sources, grazing lands, etc. It is also pertinent to understand how it would impact the supply of electricity, post offices, health care facilities, etc.
As per section 5, the affected family/ies may also be given a public hearing to voice their opinion. This must be done during the SIA. The Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation as well as the District Collector, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and the Tehsil’s offices must be delivered the Copies of the SIA report. As per section 6, the aforesaid Copies shall be uploaded on the website of the concerned Government. It must also be ensured that the copies are being published in the affected area. An independent multi-disciplinary Expert Group that has been brought together by an appropriate Government shall evaluate the SIA report. Where the said group believes that the project would not suit a public purpose or the social impact and expense of going ahead with the projects has more weightage over the benefits, the group, within a span of 2 months, is entitled to recommend abandonment of the project by giving reasons for the same. Since it’s a mere recommendation, the government may go ahead with the project. In doing so, the Government is required to list down it’s reasons for continuing with it. The appropriate Government has a responsibility to make sure that public purpose for the proposed acquisition is legitimate and bona fide, the public purpose and the benefits should outweigh the social expenses and impact, the acquisition should only be restricted to the minimum area of land that is required for acquisition, there shall be no unutilised land that has been previously acquired in the concerned area and if any land has remained unused then it shall be used for public purpose.
Nonetheless, where the land is being acquired via the urgency clause, the appropriate government need not conduct a SIA.
Special Provisions to Safeguard Food Security Acquisition of Irrigated Multi-Cropped Land
In order to acquire a multi-cropped land, the following conditions must be met with:
- Only in case of exceptional circumstances that are demonstratable as last resort.
- In any district or state, the area of land that is proposed to be acquired cannot go over the limits notified by the appropriate Government.
- When such land is acquired, an equal area of culturable wasteland should be developed for agricultural purposes. Further, an amount equivalent to the value of the acquired land shall be given to the appropriate Government. The government shall use this money towards investment in agriculture which would ultimately enhance food security.
Additionally, the total area of land that has been acquired in a particular district or state shall not exceed the total net sown area of that district or state. However, these provisions are not applicable to projects that are linear in nature.
Rehabilitation and Resettlement Award
This Act has a very detailed provision related Rehabilitation and Resettlement Award. As per the concerned provisions of the Act, the collector is mandated to provide for a separate award for every family that is affected as per their entitlements that have been given in Schedule II. The Resettlement area shall comprise of necessary infrastructure facilities and basic minimum amenities listed in Schedule III. The Collector is entitled to take possession of the land post full payment of the compensation as well as the rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements to the people. Within 3 months from the date of the award, the compensation shall be paid. The rehabilitation and resettlement entitlements are to be provided within 6 months from the said date. Nonetheless, the infrastructural entitlements that fall under Schedule II and Schedule III can be provided within 18 months from the date of the award. If the Collector disposes family which has already been displaced for land acquisition under LARR Act, 2013, the family is entitled to seek additional compensation.
Apart from the aforementioned points, the LARR Act, 2013 also has Special Provisions for Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes which enumerates the acquisition of land in the scheduled area. The forementioned Act also laid down the manner in which rehabilitation and resettlement are to be carried out. There has also been a mention of National and State Monitoring Committees for Rehabilitation and Resettlement. Despite the aforesaid points, most critics are of the opinion that the Act still lacks with regard to computing the amount of compensation.
- Land Laws by Prof. H. D Pithawala
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