Under Opposition fire for promulgating three ordinances less than 24 hours after both houses of Parliament were prorogued, the Centre is planning to take the ordinance route once more to effect crucial changes to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Indian Express that with Assembly elections in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir over, the government is seriously considering an ordinance to effect the changes.
Failing to get most of its investor-friendly and reform-related legislation passed in both houses of Parliament due to repeated disruptions — these were mostly over the controversial statements of senior RSS and BJP functionaries, including a minister — the government has turned to ordinances to signal that it means business.
A senior government functionary said “necessary directions” have been issued to the Rural Development Ministry to get the draft ordinance vetted by the Law Ministry so that Cabinet approval can be taken early next week.
“I think the draft ordinance will be taken to the next Cabinet meeting for clearance,” the source said. Asked if the government would be able to get the amendments cleared in Parliament, the government functionary said, if required, a joint session of both houses will be convened to push it through.
The reason for bringing in an ordinance is Section 105 of the Act which provides for excluding 13 central legislation, including Land Acquisition (Mines) Act 1885, Atomic Energy Act, 1962, Railway Act 1989, National Highways Act 1956 and Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978 from its purview.
“The Act came into force on January 1, 2014 but unless an ordinance is issued before January 1, 2015, these 13 legislation will also come under the purview of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, something that the government can ill-afford. That is why we are trying to hurry up,” the official said.
It is learnt that the proposed ordinance could also take large infrastructure and PPP projects out of the purview of the clause in the Act pertaining to social impact assessment (SIA), which is mandatory and has to be completed within six months.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and some other senior ministers of the view that this clause causes huge delays in land acquisition.
However, according to sources, there is still no unanimity on amendments pertaining to doing away with the consent clause completely or keeping it to minimal. Currently, prior consent is required from 70 per cent of the affected families if land is being acquired for PPP projects and from 80 per cent in case of private companies.
Earlier too, the government toyed with the idea of promulgating an ordinance to amend the Act but the move was never carried to its logical conclusion because there was concern that it could have a negative impact on BJP fortunes in the then poll-bound states of Maharashtra and Haryana.