The Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, a complex but comprehensive legislation, aims at providing just and fair rehabilitation of even the minimally-affected people, favours greater transparency and emphasises on prior consultation with local bodies and landowners.
The Act, which replaces the century-old Land Acquisition Act (1894), came into force from January 1, 2014, and seeks to fix deficiencies by focussing mainly on equitable compensation to farmers and integration of acquisition with resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) measures.
Though many have labelled it as the UPA government’s ‘vote politics law’ in view of the ensuing national elections in May, the need for an improved piece of legislation for land acquisition was felt with nearly 70% of the investment stuck in projects stalled due to opposition to the acquisition of land for these projects. Tata Motors’s experience in Singur, West Bengal, where it had originally planned the factory for Nano, is one such example.
While the old Act had various shortcomings like forced acquisitions without adequate safeguards, the new law’s principal objective is reflected in its title itself. The most important feature of the new law is that it requires developers to get the consent of up to 80% of the people whose land needs to be acquired for private projects and 70% of the land-owners in the case of public-private-partnership projects.
It has commendably increased the compensation amount and enhanced the solatium to 100% (earlier, it was 30%) while special provisions have been inserted to ensure that multi-crop land is acquired only as a last resort. Besides, a pre-notification discussion with the local Panchayati Raj institutions is a procedural innovation that would reduce litigation and speed up the acquisition process. Even the land not used can now be returned to the original owners if the state so decides.
Where awards are made but no compensation has been paid or possession has not been taken, compensation shall be paid at the rate prescribed under the new Act. Where the award has not been made, the entire process shall be considered to have lapsed. Also, where acquisition has taken place five years prior to the commencement of the new law but no compensation/ possession has taken place, the proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed.
While the urgency clause in the 1894 Act never truly defined what constituted an urgent need and was left to the discretion of