The Gujarat government is set to introduce a bill in the Budget session of Assembly to bring crucial amendments to the 2013 land acquisition Act, including relaxation of the clauses of social impact assessment and need for consent of land owners, sources said.
According to the sources, the Revenue Department was working for the last “five-six” months on the new bill and it has now been cleared by the state Cabinet too. With the Cabinet’s nod, the bill is likely to be introduced in the Budget Session, which started Monday.
The state government was opposed to several clauses in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013, — enacted by the previous UPA government at the Centre — claiming that it was almost “impossible” to acquire land for public purposes under the current provisions.
In fact, the present BJP-led NDA government at Centre had appointed Union minister Nitin Gadkari to take suggestions from all the state governments on the stringent provisions in the 2013 land Act. The Gujarat government had also submitted its objections to the Act before Gadkari.
The state government had taken strongest objection to the provision (Section 4 of the Act) under which it was required to consult the concerned Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation and carry out a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) in consultation with the local body before acquiring land. More so, the SIA had to be finished within six months and it needed a number of things to be ascertained such as whether the proposed acquisition actually serves any public purpose or not.
The Gujarat government had submitted that the process for SIA mentioned in the act should be relaxed. It had also objected to Section 7 of the Act, which mandated the SIA report be evaluated by an independent multidisciplinary expert group that must include two non-official social scientists, two representatives of the concerned Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation, two experts on rehabilitation and a technical expert on the subject of the project. The Act gave power to the expert group to recommend the government to abandon the project, if it was not satisfied.
The Act also imposed penalty — imprisonment of the land acquisition officers (LAQs) — if the land was not acquired within a stipulated time. The state government had opposed this provision too.
The sources said the new bill would have provisions for land acquisition procedure to be adopted in Gujarat on the basis of past experiences. “Naturally, it will have amended provisions also based on the suggestions given by the Gujarat government to the Nitin Gadkari committee,” a source said.
Since land acquisition belongs to the Concurrent List, the bill, if passed, would be sent to the Centre and ultimately to the President for approval. “The Centre may concur and may not concur. It has to be seen,” the source said.