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Saturday, Sep 24, 2022

Haryana Land Bill: Congress MLA Kiran Choudhry requests President to withhold assent

The Haryana Governor had referred the Bill, which seeks to expedite development projects by simplifying the procedure for the acquisition of land, for the President’s assent under Article 254 of the Constitution of India.

Senior Congress leader in Haryana and Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry. (Facebook @kiranchoudhry55)

Senior Congress leader in Haryana and Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry has written to President of India Droupadi Murmu requesting her to withhold assent to the Bill – The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Haryana Governor had referred the Bill, which seeks to expedite development projects by simplifying the procedure for the acquisition of land, for the President’s assent under Article 254 of the Constitution of India.

Calling the Bill as “ipso-facto a colourable, unconstitutional and perverse legislation wholly repugnant to the principal central Act in letter and spirit”, Kiran Choudhry wrote that the present memorandum is a prayer for fair play for farmers, tenants, artisans and labourers whose sole means of subsistence and livelihood is dependent on agricultural land. While we accept the imperative need to acquire land by the state for infrastructure projects for rapid development, this has to be through a humane, transparent, and fair process of adequate compensation /resettlement/rehabilitation of all the affected persons.

The new Bill that was passed by the Haryana Assembly in 2021 has brought Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects to the ‘exempt’ category, for which Social Impact Assessment (SIA)/ consent of landowners, a requirement under the Central Land Acquisition Act of 2013, is not required. The Opposition Congress has criticised the Bill for allegedly being “anti-farmer” and promoting “crony capitalism”.

Kiran Choudhry said the Bill, impugned vide the present memorandum, seeks to disturb this tenuous equilibrium enshrined in the benign central principal Act. “We have high hopes of a positive outcome in this matter, as the elevation of Madam President to this august office epitomizes the eternal hope of the deprived and the marginalized citizens’ dreams taking a trajectory towards realization breaking through the glass ceiling of privilege and entitlement in a stratified society”.

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Further hitting out at the provisions of the Bill, Choudhry said the Bill had been hastily piloted and approved in a short period of the Haryana Vidhan Sabha August 2021 session, ignoring vociferous protests and a walkout. “Understandably, any meaningful discussion on the Bill was stifled and steamrolled, due deliberations were eschewed while approving the Bill above mentioned. We are given to understand that this contentious Bill has been referred by the Hon’ble Haryana Governor for the Presidential assent under Article 254 read with Articles 200/201 of the Constitution of India on 20.12.2021”.

“Provisions 2 and 3 seek to exempt multi-cropped irrigated agricultural lands from bar to acquisition, not only for the government projects but also private sector under the guise of Public Private Partnership by seeking to insert 10A after Section 10 of the principal Act. These provisions have the effect of waiving off the statutory safeguards of either seeking consent of 70 percent of affected stakeholders (as envisaged under Section 2 of the principal Act), or of doing a Social Impact Assessment of such projects, which is in complete contravention of the basic spirit of the central principal Act. The sole purpose of this proposed amendment seems to be to throw lush and prime agricultural land open to acquisition by big corporate players, waiving the safeguards in the benign principal Act. Section 10A sought to be inserted in the principal Act vide the above-mentioned Bill, further provides for exempting such acquisition of land from the operation of Chapter Il and Ill of the principal Act, making this Section absurd, self-nugatory and a nullity,” Choudhry wrote.

The MLA said that provision 4 of the proposed Bill is wholly against the principles of natural justice and fair play, as it seeks to arm the Collector with the draconian powers of announcing the award for acquisition without a spot visit or an inquiry in case such acquisition is with the consent of persons interested in the land.

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“Provision 6 of the Bill is even more draconian as it seeks to arm the Collector with the arbitrary powers of throwing out the belongings of a person occupying a building in acquired land, dispensing with the safeguard of 48 hours’ notice provided under Section 40 of the central principal Act. Provision 5 of the Bill seeks to limit lump sum compensation in lieu of rehabilitation and resettlement to 50% of such compensation determined under Section 27, which is in contravention of Section 40(5) of the principal Act,” she said.

First published on: 09-08-2022 at 07:33:01 pm
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