The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the governments of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand on a plea challenging the amendments made by the states to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, reported Bar and Bench.
The 2013 law was the then Congress-led government’s replacement for a colonial-era law that gave the state sweeping powers to forcibly acquire private land if it served a “public purpose”. The replacement – Right to Fair Compensation in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – was intended to bring more transparency in the acquisition process and ensure proper rehabilitation for those losing their land and also for workers and artisans whose livelihoods were affected.
Various activists, including Medha Patkar, moved the Supreme Court challenging the changes, alleging that the amendments by the state governments to the 2013 law go against the “basic structure of the central Act”, Bar and Bench reported. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioner, claimed that the amendments introduced by the states virtually exempt all land acquisition while the central law provides for safety against forcible acquisition.
The petitioner also claimed that the amendments were not in line with Article 21 of the Constitution, which provides for right to life with dignity. “Right to life with dignity includes right not to be displaced,” Bhushan said.
In 2014, the Tamil Nadu government had passed an order approving the amendments to the central act, enabling the state government to acquire land for certain purposes under the state legislation. In 2016, the Gujarat government diluted the Act, doing away with social impact assessment and consent clauses to acquire land parcels for public projects. Similarly, the Jharkhand government last year passed amendments waiving the requirement of social impact assessment for acquisition for various purposes.
The petition had asked the top court to issue an order declaring that the amendments override the central act and are illegal.