JU­DI­CIARY WATCH:

The Supreme Court of In­dia de­liv­ered an epoch-mak­ing judg­ment on Au­gust 31, 2016 in the case of land ac­qui­si­tion at Sin­gur and other vil­lages in West Ben­gal. The Kedar Nath Ya­dav Vs State of West Ben­gal & Ors case in­volved Tata Mo­tors Ltd. The apex court

Bureaucracy Today - - INSIDE INFORMATION - ◆By Dr PK Agrawal Send your feed­back to: info@bu­reau­cra­cy­to­day.com

Sin­gur case is a mile­stone in SC land ac­qui­si­tion judg­ments.

The Sin­gur case judg­ment of the Supreme Court clearly lays down that land can­not be ac­quired for a pri­vate com­pany un­less “pub­lic pur­pose” is specif­i­cally de­clared. Even funds for ac­qui­si­tion should come from the pub­lic ex­che­quer. In the Sin­gur case, the land was no­ti­fied for the Tata Mo­tors Ltd com­pany for its small car project which it­self could not be termed “pub­lic pur­pose”. The apex court said that it should be clearly spelt out that the project will be for so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment and give fil­lip to the lo­cal econ­omy. Se­condly, the Court held that in cases of land ac­qui­si­tion, no­tices should be served to land own­ers in­di­vid­u­ally which couldn’t be es­tab­lished in the Sin­gur case from the of­fi­cial records. How­ever, it was not clear how a no­tice can be served to a per­son who is re­peat­edly re­fus­ing to get no­tice or the per­sons col­lec­tively who are ob­struct­ing to re­ceive no­tices for land ac­qui­si­tion. Thirdly, the apex court clearly re­it­er­ated like in many pre­vi­ous judg­ments that proper op­por­tu­nity of hear­ing should be pro­vided by the Col­lec­tor to the ob­jec­tors of land ac­qui­si­tion. It will be more ap­pro­pri­ate if the de­ci­sions on the dis­pos­ing of ob­jec­tions are pub­licly pub­lished so that peo­ple may know why their ob­jec­tions were re­jected by the Col­lec­tor.

The Supreme Court fur­ther com­mented that the Tata Mo­tors could not start op­er­a­tions as per the terms of the lease and farm­ers are en­ti­tled to take back their land and re­tain the com­pen­sa­tion as they have been de­prived of cul­ti­va­tion for the last 10 years. This in­cludes the time taken in lit­i­ga­tion at var­i­ous stages.

The Tata Mo­tors has also failed in con­cretiz­ing the min­i­mum land re­quired for its plant gen­er­at­ing em­ploy­ment for about 4,700 per­sons. Ini­tially, the com­pany wanted 700 acres of land and landed up tak­ing 1,000 acres of land. As per the new Land Ac­qui­si­tion Act, 2013, the ac­qui­si­tion can be done for the min­i­mum land re­quired only. Thus, about Rs 611 crore went down the drain.

FAR-REACH­ING IM­PACT

The Supreme Court’s judg­ment will have a far-reach­ing im­pact on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new land ac­qui­si­tion pro­pos­als with the Gov­ern­ment. Now on­wards land ac­qui­si­tion of­fi­cers and de­ci­sion-mak­ers will have to be dou­bly cau­tious while im­ple­ment-

ing the pro­vi­sions of the new Land Ac­qui­si­tion Act, 2013. They can no longer take shel­ter un­der the sov­er­eign func­tions and the power of “emi­nent do­main” for vi­o­la­tions of due pro­ce­dures un­der the Act. Se­condly, the land for pri­vate en­ti­ties will be ac­quired only in ex­cep­tional cases be­cause they can­not pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion money from pub­lic funds. Ad­di­tion­ally, they will have to pro­vide for proper re­set­tle­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pack­ages be­fore tak­ing over the land. Thirdly, the projects hav­ing a com­mer­cial an­gle will also have to go through the process of so­cial im­pact as­sess­ment. Fourthly, ef­forts will have to be made by the re­quir­ing bod­ies to avoid/min­i­mize multi-cropped area or in­ten­sively cul­ti­vated land. The same pro­vi­sions are also con­tained in the new Act.

Thus the Supreme Court’s judg­ment in the Sin­gur land ac­qui­si­tion case es­tab­lishes that jus­tice should not only be done, it should be seen to have been done. Jus­tice should reach the de­serv­ing and de­prived per­sons. The rou­tine com­pli­ance with the pro­vi­sions of law will not be ad­e­quate. It will be struck down by the ever vig­i­lant apex court. It was, there­fore, high time the ad­min­is­tra­tive ma­chin­ery in the land ac­qui­si­tion setup was geared up to face fu­ture chal­lenges in land ac­qui­si­tion mat­ters. ■

(Dr PK Agrawal re­tired as Ad­di­tional Chief Sec­re­tary to the Gov­ern­ment of West Ben­gal. He was as­so­ci­ated with land ac­qui­si­tion mat­ters for 11 years and was also posted as Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral in the Land Re­forms Depart­ment of the West Ben­gal Gov­ern­ment.)

A file photo of the closed Tata Mo­tors car fac­tory in Sin­gur

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