The Right To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation And Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2022
If approved, the Bill would expedite the entire process right from application and scrutinization to the grant of approval for acquisition of land by the Government of Maharashtra for development purposes, while also ensuring timely disbursal of compensation and securing the rights of landowners whose lands have been acquired by the Government says Ashoo Gupta, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co.
On the 1st of April 2022, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was introduced in the parliament, with an objective of avoiding the delay in infrastructure development projects in the city of Mumbai caused by procedural lapses in acquisition of land.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which replaced the erstwhile Land Acquisition Act, 1894, was introduced with the purpose of establishing a more informed and transparent process for land acquisition in India, aims to provide for just and fair compensation to the families and owners affected by such acquisition, whilst also providing for their rehabilitation and resettlement. However, the current procedure for acquisition of land is lengthy and time-consuming, involving various authorities and departments at different stages leading to delays in many infrastructure projects. The process, laid out under Sections 4 – 40 of the Act, is stated in brief herein.
After a proposal for acquisition of land is made, a Social Impact Assessment Study (SIA) has to be prepared by the project proponent and a simultaneous Environment Impact Assessment is to be carried out. An independent expert group is then appointed to approve the SIA report. The appropriate government then examines the initial proposal and the subsequent reports. Once satisfied that the potential benefits of acquiring the land outweigh the social costs of acquiring, it recommends an area of land for acquisitions which ensures minimum displacement. A meeting is held with the municipal corporation and a preliminary notification is issued allowing the public to raise objections. The land is surveyed and marked out and a rehabilitation and resettlement report is prepared, after which the affected people are issued a notice regarding acquisition of the land. The collector can take possession of land once the award (compensation based on value of land and assets + plus rehabilitation award) is paid. As stated in the statements of objects and reasons of the Bill, the current process is a lengthy one involving long chains of communications which in turn cause unavoidable delay in development projects in Mumbai, some of which are time sensitive.
Section 40 of the Act gives the government special power, in case of an urgency, to take possession of the land after 30 days of issuing a notice to the affected people, even though the award has not been paid. However, 80% of the compensation amount has to be paid before taking possession.
The amendment aims to introduce two new sections, Sections 40A and 40B after Section 40 of the Act. These sections are limited in their application to land required to be acquired for infrastructure projects in Mumbai. Section 2 (1) (b) states items that are included under the definition of “Infrastructure Project”. Section 40A as proposed in the Bill allows the government to take possession of land required for Infrastructure projects in Mumbai, even though no award has been paid, on the recommendation of a Single Window No Objection Certificate Approval Committee. The collector can take possession 30 – 45 days after issuing notice to the persons interested. Before taking possession however, compensation would have to be paid to the affected people. The Single Window No Objection Certificate Approval Committee is a single body which may grant or withdraw approvals received from the government, accelerating the process of and acquisition and make it more time-bound.
Section 40B talks in detail about the formation and duties of the Single Window No Objection Certificate Approval Committee. As laid out on Section 40B, the committee shall consist of one representative of central and state government each, the collector of the metropolitan city of Mumbai concerned from where the land is acquired, and one representative from the BMC, as members. And one representative from the State department of Urban Development, Rural Development, Finance, Home, and Environmental, Forest and Climate Change. This committee would be responsible to make its recommendation regarding the grant of no objection certificates, within 30 – 45 days of receiving a request. Furthermore, the committee shall also uphold the socio-economic interests of the local community, determine a fair compensation to be paid, and maintain a public interface for application and disbursement, constantly update its data pertaining to application received verses disbursement and penalty paid in such manner as may be prescribed.
If approved, the Bill would expedite the entire process right from application and scrutinization to the grant of approval for acquisition of land by the Government of Maharashtra for development purposes, while also ensuring timely disbursal of compensation and securing the rights of landowners whose lands have been acquired by the Government.
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