• The Supreme Court on Monday asked five states to give their response to a petition filed by social activists questioning the state amendments made to the land acquisition law.
• The petitioners claim have diluted the safeguards the central law provides for against forcible acquisition.
• The activists, including Medha Patkar, have questioned the changes made to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (Land Acquisition Act), 2013 by Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
• The petitioners have contended that the amendments by the states are identical and go against the “basic structure” of the central law.
• Petitioners’ counsel, advocate Prashant Bhushan, argued before a bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta and said states were told to make the changes by the central government after the latter’s attempt to introduce similar amendments in the central law failed.
• Bhushan said the Parliament had refused to support the government on this.
• The lawyer submitted that the amendments made by the states were in violation of Article 21, which guarantees the right to live with dignity and personal liberty.
• “Right to live with dignity also includes right not to be displaced unless there is overwhelming public interest,” Bhushan said.
• According to the petition the states amended the act by way of ordinances to exempt broad categories of land projects from consent provisions, social impact assessment, objections by affected citizens and participation of local bodies.
• Projects exempted are linear category projects such as industrial corridors, expressways, highways etc.
• Petitioners have challenged the power of the states to introduce such amendments that are conflicting with the central law and want them to be declared as illegal.
• The bench told Bhushan that “under the law, state amendments can be made.
• If state legislature decides that they want to do this, we cannot say you cannot do this.
he petition further said
• The Central Act of 2013 was brought to give effect to pre-existing fundamental right to livelihood of citizens.
• It ensures that livelihood will not be taken away unless
• (i) it is in public interest and that is seen by social impact assessment
• (ii) The affected citizens are given rehabilitation.
• The amendments made without considering the above factors will take away fundamental rights of the citizens.”
Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Prelims level: Land Acquisitions Act, 2013
Mains level: Fair compensation and transparency in Land Acquisitions