Highlights of the Bill
- This Bill amends the principal Act passed in 2013.
- The Bill enables the government to exempt five categories of projects from the requirements of: (i) social impact assessment, (ii) restrictions on acquisition of multi-cropped land, and (iii) consent for private projects and public private partnerships (PPPs) projects.
- The five categories of projects are: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors, and (v) infrastructure including PPPs where government owns the land.
- The Act would apply retrospectively, if an award had been made five years earlier and compensation had not been paid or possession not taken. The Bill exempts any period when a court has given a stay on the acquisition while computing the five year period.
- The Act deemed the head of a government department guilty for an offence by the department. The Bill removes this, and adds the requirement of prior sanction to prosecute a government employee.
Key Issues and Analysis
- The five types of projects being exempt from the provisions of social impact assessment, restrictions in case of multi-cropped land and consent are broad and may cover many public purpose projects.
- The Act requires consent of 70% of landholders for PPP projects, and 80% for private projects. Acquisition, being different from purchase, implies that land owners were unwilling to part with the land. Requiring consent from them may be impractical. Also, it is not clear why the consent requirement depends on who owns the project.
- The amendments in the Bill propose to expedite the process of acquisition. However, the changes in the Bill will reduce the time for acquisition from 50 months to 42 months.
- The removal of the provision that deemed the head of department guilty, and addition of a new requirement of prior sanction to prosecute government employees may raise the bar to hold them accountable.
- The change in the retrospective provision may be ineffective in cases instituted until 2014 in light of a recent Supreme Court judgment.