With the NDA government’s Land Acquisition (Amendment) Ordinance set to lapse on August 31, the government is likely to issue a fresh ordinance in order to accommodate the 13 legislations excluded under the 2013 law, while dropping a majority of key amendments brought in through its earlier ordinances.
The government had earlier re-promulgated its ordinance thrice, bringing sweeping changes to the 2013 law.
However, in a major climb-down earlier this month, the government agreed to drop most of its contentious amendments to the Act in order to bring back the crucial clauses on consent and Social Impact Assessment. This change in government’s stand was made clear by the amendments moved by the BJP members of the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the issue.
Sources said the fresh ordinance was likely to be in sync with the report set to be presented by the parliamentary panel. According to sources, the fresh ordinance was expected to basically retain the clause bringing the 13 existing pieces of legislation — including the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition and Development Act, 1957, the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885 — under the purview of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
This was even indicated by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.
“Let us see. The time is till August 31. Same is the case with the The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015. Some decision will have to be taken in time. The problem in land bill is that if we do not reissue the ordinance, the 13 other Acts under which land will be acquired will lapse. There will be damage. Those who have to get jobs will not get it as it is not in the old law. This will have to be done keeping in mind all the aspects,” said Naidu.
Sources also claimed that the fresh ordinance might also include the government’s amendment to the retrospective clause on which no consensus was evolved between the government and the Opposition through the Parliamentary panel.
The ordinance had sought to amend the retrospective clause of the 2013 legislation by excluding the period spent on litigation from its applicability. It basically amended Section 24 (2) to exclude time spent under litigation where a stay order had been passed.
The Joint Committee of Parliament, headed by BJP MP S S Ahluwalia, was able to evolve a consensus on key issues including consent and Social Impact Assessment provisions, the use of the term private company versus private entity as well as the clause dealing with action against defaulting civil servants. However, the government has stuck to its position on the retrospective clause, turning down the Opposition’s demand of reverting to the 2013 version which does not exclude the period spent in litigation.
The clause relating to the period of time after which a piece of unutilised acquired land must be returned to its original owner had also become a bone of contention.
While the original law said if acquired land is not utilised after five years, it should be returned, the ordinance had amended the provision (Section 101) from a “period of five years” to a “period specified for setting up of any project or for five years, whichever is later”.
Sources said while the government proposed to change it to “a period of five years or a period specified by the government”, the Congress-led Opposition wanted to revert to the clause as it was in the 2013 legislation. The clause was also likely to be included in the fresh ordinance.
In effect, the new ordinance will make one key change to the 2013 Act — with respect to the 13 existing legislation — and may also retain its amendments to clauses related to retrospective application and return of unutilised land. This will be in contrast to the nine key amendments brought in by the NDA government earlier.