Thursday, August 27, 2009

Land Acquisition Act 1894

This act which was enacted in 1894 is one of the remnants of the colonial legacy on independent India. Sure there have been amendments to the act but the character of the act still remains the same.

For those of us who are not aware of the exact contents of the act, I wish to briefly explain the act as I would to a layman. The act has various sections and without going deep into each section, I will try and simplify by going step wise.

The act is basically meant to acquire land for public purposes and for companies.

Step I
  • appropriate govt makes a preliminary notification that land is required for public purpose or a company. This notice made under section 4(1) has to be published in official gazette and in two local news papers atleast one of them being in local language.
  • Primary survey is then done to ascertain the suitability of land.
  • Any interested party, meaning owner of land can within 30 days of publication of notice u/s 4(1) submit his objections to the collector who hears the objections and after making necessary enquiry submit his recommendations and report to the govt.
Step II

  • The govt after considering the report of collector, the govt issues a declaration u/s 6(1) that the said land is required for public purpose or for a company. This declaration has to be made within one year of the notification u/s 4(1). This declaration is then published in official gazette and two local news papers.
  • After this the collector initiates further action like measurement etc.
Step III

  • Once this is done, collector acting under section 9 directs through a public notice that any claims for compensation of the land be made to him.
  • These claims are heard and then collector gives his award for compensation u/s 11.
  • award has to be made within 2 years from date of declaration u/s 6.
Step IV
  • The collector can take possession of the land after the order is made.
Step V
  • On making the award u/s 11, the collector then makes payment of the compensation awarded by him.
  • In case amount is not paid or deposited in court as the case be before taking possession of the land, the collector has to pay an interest @9% per annum for the first year and @15%per annum subsequently.
  • Any body who is not acceptable to the amount of compensation can through the collector appeal to the district court. The court can only decide on the amount of compensation and not any thing else. The court can also not decrease the compensation awarded by the collector.
  • In addition to the above compensation courts should award a sum of 30% on the market value ascertained by it. Further courts shall also award a sum of 12% of market value for the intervening period from date of notification u/s 4 to the date of actual taking possession of land/or date of award whichever is earlier.
Now, some interesting issues in this act that are being pointed out by activists against the act are provided below.
      • The act says compensation is payable only to interested parties which means the person has is interested in an easement affecting the land. This means that the agricultural labourers who are also dependant on the land but have no rights cannot be compensated.
      • assumes that money is an adequate means of compensation.
      • There is no standard and well defined process of fixing compensation.
      • In case where local bodies are the interested parties, they do not even have the right to go to court. They simply have to surrender and can only represent regarding compensation to the collector.
      • Under urgency provisions u/s 17, collector can do away with most of the above procedures and take possession of land. But what constitutes urgency or essential requirement has nowhere been defined.
      • 45 discusses how notice should be served. In case notice cannot be served on the person named, it has to be served on any other male member of the family. It is not lawful to serve the notice to a female member of the family.
      • How can govt acquire forcibly land and hand over to a company whose sole interest is making profit.
      • The rules and norms of market are not followed. Normally in market, land is traded for an amount mutually agreed to after negotiations.
      • entire process is very slow and due to inordinate delays causes great hardships to the people involved.
      • Compensation is not immediately paid to the evicted people resulting in great hardship to them.
However it is equally true that sometimes house owners claim astronomical amounts as compensation while refusing to pay betterment charges.

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