Opposing the petition of Reliance Industries challenging a section of newly-implemented land acquisition act as “unconstitutional”, the Centre has told the Gujarat High Court that the particular clause or the entire act was legislated with aspect of not only acquisition of land but also “fair compensation and rehabilitation of land owners who have lost their lands”. The government has said that the provision was brought in order to achieve “socio-economic object, even if any company suffers loss”.
The central government has said this in an affidavit filed in the High Court on Wednesday, a day before the petition was to be heard. On Thursday, the High Court issued notice to Attorney General and adjourned the case for hearing on March 14 after the petitioner company’s lawyer sought time for filing a rejoinder.
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Reliance has challenged Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.
The petition comes in the background of the fact that the company had acquired land for its special economic zone (SEZ) in Jamnagar in 2008 under the old Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
In 2014, a group of farmers filed a petition through lawyer Anand Yagnik saying that a total of 11,235 acre of five villages —Navagam, Kanalus, Kanachhikari, Padana and Derachhikari — was acquired by Reliance Industries Ltd by 2008. It was under the 1894 Act that the land was acquired for the Reliance SEZ.
The farmers moved the court seeking that the acquisition of their land be declared lapsed because they are still in possession of it. Reliance has now challenged the constitutional validity of section 24(2). The farmers are also party in the petition.
The section states that if land was acquired under the earlier 1894 Act five years or more before the new Act came into effect — this happened on January 1, 2014 — and if physical possession was not taken or compensation not paid, then the acquisition will be deemed lapsed.
The Centre has opposed the company’s petition, saying “the new Act, 2013, is legislated with the specific objects and all the provisions of the said act have to be read keeping the basic object of the Act in mind” which can’t be held unconstitutional. The affidavit stated: “The object of section 24 is not to provide for any limitation for taking over of possession. The object of the said provision is to see that the incomplete acquisitions may not be governed by the Old LAQ Act, 1894 and the persons whose land were under contemplation of acquisition under the old LAQ Act, 1894, may not be discriminated and they also be given benefit of the new Act.”
The affidavit stated that the “legislation was conscious of situation that may arise due to lapse of acquisition for minor part and that is why the legislature has specifically provided that it would be open for the Government to initiate the proceedings of such land acquisition afresh in accordance with the provisions of the new Act.”