Wife can’t be simply evicted from home after divorce: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India

PTI NEWS

 A Hindu woman cannot be evicted out of the matrimonial home after divorce except through procedure established by law, as there is no provision for her automatic eviction, the Supreme Court has ruled. A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S D Mukhopadhyay, in a judgement, said that though a woman may not have a legal right to continue in the house of the ex-husband, yet the latter cannot forcibly evict her. The apex court gave the ruling while upholding an appeal filed by Ranjit Kaur challenging the decisions of the Punjab and Haryana high court which had upheld her eviction from the house of a disputed property upon a decree of divorce granted to the husband Major Harmohinder Singh, an Army officer. “Learned counsel is right in his submission that even though in the decree of divorce, the appellant has not been given a right of residence and her occupation of the suit property can be treated as unauthorised, respondent No 1 (Singh) cannot evict her except after following the procedure established by law. “The material placed on record shows that the appellant had entered into the property as the wife of respondent No. 1. Therefore, even though, after passing of the decree of the divorce she may not have a legal right to continue to remain in possession of the suit property, respondent No. 1 cannot be given liberty to forcibly evict her,” the bench said.

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Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011, Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 and Central Legislation for Street Vendors

Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011, Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 and Central Legislation for Street Vendors

Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation notified the `Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011`, The Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011` and Central Legislation for Street Vendors at a Press Conference in New Delhi.

I.  Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011

 The Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011 seeks to establish a regulatory oversight mechanism to enforce disclosure, fair practice and accountability norms in the real estate sector, and to provide adjudication machinery for speedy dispute redressal. This Act is in pursuance of the powers of Parliament to make laws on matters enumerated in the Concurrent List namely, transfer of property other than agricultural land; registration of deeds and documents, and contracts including partnerships, agency, contracts of carriage, and other special forms of contracts, but not including contracts relating to agricultural land.  The Bill aims at restoring confidence of the general public in the real estate sector; by instituting transparency and accountability in real estate and housing transactions.  Currently, the real estate and housing sector is largely unregulated and opaque, with consumers often unable to procure complete information, or enforce accountability against builders and developers in the absence of effective regulation.  The sector, in recent years, has also emerged as a source of black money and corruptions in the economy. The Bill is expected to ensure greater accountability towards consumers, bring transparency and fairness in transactions and reduce frauds and delays significantly. All of these factors would make sizable dent in the corruption in this sector.

 The Bill is also expected to promote regulated and orderly growth through efficiency, professionalism and standardization. It seeks to ensure consumer protection, without adding another stage in the procedure for sanctions.

 The salient features of the Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill are:

  1. Establishment of a ‘Real Estate Regulatory Authority’ in each State by the Appropriate Government (Centre for the UTs and State Governments in the case of the States), with specified functions, powers, and responsibilities to facilitate the orderly and planned  growth of the sector;
  2. Mandatory registration of developers / builders, who intend to sell any immovable property, with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority as a system of accreditation;
  3. Mandatory public disclosure norms for all registered developers, including details of developer, project, land status , statutory approvals and contractual obligations;
  4. Obligations of promoters to adhere to approved plans and project specifications, and to refund moneys in cases of default;
  5. Obligation of allottee to make necessary payments and other charges agreed to under the agreement and payment of interest in case of any delay;
  6. Provision to compulsorily deposit a portion of funds received from the allottees in a separate bank account, to be used for that real estate project only;
  7. The Authority to act as the nodal agency to co-ordinate efforts regarding development of the real estate sector and render necessary advice to the appropriate Government to ensure the growth and promotion of a transparent, efficient and competitive real estate sector; as also establish dispute resolution mechanisms for settling disputes between promoters and allottees/ buyers;
  8. Authorities to comprise of one Chairperson and not less than two members having adequate knowledge and experience of the sector;
  9. Establishment of a ‘Real Estate Appellate Tribunal’ by the Central Government to hear appeals from the orders of the Authority and to adjudicate on disputes.  Tribunal  to be headed by a sitting or retired Judge of Supreme Court or Chief Justice of High Court with 4 judicial and at-least 4 administrative/technical members;
  10. Chairperson of the Tribunal to have powers to constitute Benches, for exercising powers of the Tribunal;
  11. Establishment of a Central Advisory Council to advise the Central Government on matters concerning implementation of the Act.
  12. Council to make recommendations on major questions of policy, protection of consumer interest and to foster growth and development of the real estate sector;
  13. Penal provisions to ensure compliance with orders of the Authority and Tribunal;
  14. Jurisdiction of Civil Courts barred on matters which the Authority or the Tribunal is empowered to determine;
  15. Both Centre and States to have  powers to make rules over subjects specified in the Bill, and the Regulatory Authority to have powers to make regulations;
  16. Powers to Central Government to issue directions to States on matters specified in the Act have also been specified.

 II.  Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011

The Ministry of HUPA proposed the strengthening of its Slum redevelopment strategy by working towards a slum free India, and assigning property rights to Slum Dwellers, under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). RAY proposes decisive action for inclusive urban development that acknowledges the presence of the poor in cities, recognizes their contribution as essential to the city`s functioning, and redresses the fundamental reasons for inequity that ties them down to poverty.

 The conferment of property title is a new direction for national policy that aligns national approach to the global practice. It sees ownership of property as the best investment in democracy, by creating for the household due space within the formal system, and thereby a vested interest in peace and legal order.

 The Model law is aimed at bringing within the formal system, those who are forced to live in extra-formal spaces and in denial of right to services and amenities available to those with legal title to city spaces, and at correcting the deficiencies of the formal system of urban development and town planning that have failed to create conditions of inclusiveness and equity, so that, henceforth, new urban families, whether by way of migration or natural growth of population, have recourse to housing with civic amenities, and are not forced from lack of options to create encroachments and slums and live extralegal lives in conditions of deprivation of rights and amenities.

 The Model law intends to enable the household to access the formal channels of credit; it draws the entire extralegal economy of slums out of the informal market; it enriches the slum dweller by giving him access to mortgageable rights for housing construction, and the formal economy by enabling a quarter of its population to participate in its growth. The importance that Central Government gives to this measure for inclusion and equity may be gauged from the decision to link central support for slum redevelopment with the empowering of the slum household with property rights.

The salient features of the Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 are:

  1. Facilitation of inclusive growth and slum-free cities, to provide assured security of tenure, basic amenities and affordable housing to the slum-dwellers.
  2. Every landless person living in a slum area in any city or urban area on 4th June, 2009 shall be entitled to a dwelling space at an affordable cost.
  3. Every Slum dweller or the Collective of the Slum Dwellers shall be given a legal entitlement, which shall be in the name of the female head of the household or in the joint name of the male head of the household and his wife.
  4. Every slum dweller eligible shall be provided with basic civic services until the site for the dwelling space has been developed.
  5. The dwelling space so provided shall not be transferable but allowed to be mortgageable for raising housing loan, or in need to sell- but only to the Government or the Collective as the case may be.
  6. The dwelling space may be provided in-situ as far as possible, provided in cases on public interest they shall be resettled elsewhere.
  7. Constitution of a Grievance Redressal Committee for the purposes of resolving disputes in relation to matters about identification of slum dwellers.
  8. State Government shall prescribe and notify participative and transparent procedures for identification and periodic survey of slum dwellers for purpose of granting legal entitlement to slum dwellers.
  9. Establishment of City / Urban Area Slum Redevelopment Committee for implementing the provisions of the Act namely- to survey and make a list of slum dwellers, make an inventory of existing position regarding slum areas, formulate schemes for slum redevelopment/up-gradation/resettlement and for rental housing (including dormitories and night shelters) for the urban poor and slum-dwellers in-eligible etc.
  10. Establishment of a State Slum Redevelopment Authority (to be headed by the Chief Minister) to continuously monitor implementation of the Act and to recommend corrective measures wherever necessary.
  11. Emphasis on Community Participation by providing for establishment of Slum Development Committee for each slum area comprising of members for plan preparation, implementation, monitoring & evaluation, and post project maintenance.
  12. Power to acquire land for redevelopment/up-gradation and for resettlement under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 as amended from time to time.
  13. Responsibility of the Government to prevent encroachment or of construction of illegal structures towards which necessary amendment to the Municipal and other Acts need to be undertaken.
  14. Civil courts not to have jurisdiction on matters for which the City/Urban Area Slum Redevelopment Committee, State Slum Redevelopment Committee, Grievance Redressal Committee, or the Tribunal is empowered.
  15. Power of the State Government to make rules on matters specified in the Act.

  III.  Credit Risk Guarantee Fund

 To address the issue of credit enablement of EWS and LIG households, the Ministry proposes to create a Credit Risk Guarantee Fund Scheme (CGFS) under Rajiv Awas Yojana. The salient features of the proposed fund are as follows:

Under the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme (CGFS) the Government of India will provide credit guarantee support to collateral-free / third-party-guarantee-free housing loans up to Rs. 5 lakh extended by lending institutions for Low Income Housing. The CGFS will cover the housing loans to EWS/ LIG borrowers for the purposes of repairs, home improvement, construction, acquisition, and purchase of new or second hand dwelling units, involving an amount not exceeding Rs. 5 lakh per loan. The guarantee cover available under the scheme is proposed to be to the extent of 90% of the sanctioned housing loan amount for a loan amount of upto Rs.2 lakh. And 85% for loan amounts above Rs.2 lakh and upto Rs. 5 lakh. To administer and oversee the operations of the Scheme, provision has been made for establishment of a Credit Risk Guarantee Fund Trust for low income housing (CGFT). Rs.1000 crores has been earmarked as an initial Corpus for CGFS.

  IV.  Central Legislation for Street Vendors

The Ministry of Housing & urban Poverty Alleviation had come up with a new National Policy on Urban Street Vendors in 2009 after a comprehensive review of the previous policy. The Policy underscores the need for a legislative framework to enable street vendors to pursue an honest living without harassment from any quarter. We had drafted a Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2009 and circulated to all States/UTs, requesting them to take a cue while legislating on the subject. The progress on state legislation has not been encouraging.  We are receiving continuous representations from the individual street vendors and their organisations to bring a central legislation which would be uniformly and mandatorily applicable to all the states and UTs. We are working to evolve and effective and practical central legislation for protection of livelihood rights and social security of street vendors in consultation with all concerned stakeholders including State Government.

 The bill would be based on the following basic principles:

  1. Legitimate street vendors are protected from harassment by police and civic authorities.
  2. Vending zones/spaces are demarcated for the street vendors. While demarcating the concept of traditional natural markets to be kept in mind.
  3. Adequate representation to street vendors and women in particular, is provided in the institutional structures created for ensuring proper implementation of the proposed law.
  4. A robust, effective and quick grievance redressal and dispute resolution mechanism is established.

 

REAL ESTATE BILL 2011   

NewReservationofLand-FAR

Draft-prop-rights

Let us amend the law, it is only fair to women

THE HINDU / JUSTICE DR  A R LAKSHMANAN

This refers to the article “A law that thwarts justice” ( The Hindu , June 27, 2011) by Ms. Prabha Sridevan, former Judge of the Madras High Court. I have analysed it and am in agreement with the views expressed by the author for my own reasons.

As Chairman of the Law Commission of India, I took up for consideration the necessity of amending Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which deals with the general rules of Succession in the case of female Hindus dying intestate — not having made a will before one dies — in view of the vast societal changes that have taken place.

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is part of the Hindu Code which includes the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

The Hindu Succession Act made a revolutionary change in the law for female Hindus. For the first time, a Hindu female could become an absolute owner of property. She could inherit equally with a male counterpart and a widow was also given importance regarding the succession of her husband’s property as also to her father’s property. The Act was amended in 2005 to provide that the daughter of a co-parcener in a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara Law shall, by birth, become a co-parcener in her own right in the same manner as the son, having the same rights and liabilities in respect of the said property as that of a son.

Scheme of succession

Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act propounds a definite and uniform scheme of succession to the property of a female Hindu who dies intestate. There are also rules set out in Section 16 of the Act which provides for the order of succession and the manner of distribution among heirs of a female Hindu.

Source of acquisition

The group of heirs of the female Hindu dying intestate is described in 5 categories as ‘a’ to ‘e’ of Section 15 (1) which is illustrated as under:

In a case where she dies intestate leaving property, her property will firstly devolve upon her sons and daughters so also the husband. The children of any pre-deceased son or daughter are also included in the first category of heirs of a female Hindu;

In case she does not have any heir as referred to above, i.e., sons, daughters and husband including children of any pre-deceased sons or daughters (as per clause ‘a’) living at the time of her death, then the next heirs will be the heirs of the husband ;

Thirdly, if there are no heirs of the husband, the property would devolve upon the mother and father ;

Fourthly, if the mother and father are not alive, then the property would devolve upon the heirs of the father which means brother, sister, etc ;

The last and the fifth category is the heirs of the mother upon whom the property of the female Hindu will devolve if in the absence of any heirs falling in the four preceding categories.

This is the general rule of succession, but the Section also provides for two exceptions which are stated in Sub-Section (2). Accordingly, if a female dies without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother will not devolve according to the rules laid down in the five entries as stated earlier, but upon the heirs of father. And secondly, in respect of the property inherited by her from her husband or father-in-law, the same will devolve not according to the general rule, but upon the heirs of the husband.

The Hindu Succession Bill, 1954, as originally introduced in the Rajya Sabha, did not contain any clause corresponding to Sub-Section (2) of Section 15. It came to be incorporated on the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. The intent of the legislature is clear that the property, if it originally belonged to the parents of the deceased female, should go to the legal heirs of the father.

So also under Clause (b) of Sub Section (2) of Section 15, the property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or her father-in-law shall also under similar circumstances, devolve upon the heirs of the husband. It is the source from which the property was inherited by the female, which is more important for the purpose of devolution of her property. The fact that a female Hindu originally had a limited right and after acquiring the full right, would not, in any way, alter the rules of succession given in Sub Section (2) of Section 15.

The 174 {+t} {+h} Report of the Law Commission also examined the subject of “Property Rights of Women; Proposed Reforms under the Hindu Law” and had noted that the rules of devolution of the property of a female who dies intestate reflects patriarchal assumptions.

The basis of inheritance of a female Hindu’s property who dies intestate would thus be the SOURCE from which such female Hindu came into the possession of the property and the manner of inheritance which would decide the manner of devolution.

The term ‘property’ though not specified in this Section means property of the deceased heritable under the Act. It includes both movable and immovable property owned and acquired by her by inheritance or by devise or at a partition or by gift or by her skill or exertion or by purchase or prescription. This Section does not differentiate between the property inherited and self-acquired property of a Hindu female; it only prescribes that if a property is inherited from husband or father-in-law, it would go to her husband’s heirs and if the property is inherited from her father or mother, in that case, the property would not go to her husband’s, but to the heirs of the father and mother.

This is very aptly illustrated by the following illustration:- A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving the property which is her self-acquired property. She has no issue and was a widow at the time of her death. As per the present position of law, her property would devolve in the second category, i.e., to her husband’s heirs. Thus, in a case where the mother of her husband is alive, her whole property would devolve on her mother-in-law. If the mother-in-law is also not alive, it would devolve as per the rules laid down in case of a male Hindu dying intestate, i.e., if the father of her deceased husband is alive, the next to inherit will be her father-in-law and if in the third category, the father-in-law is also not alive, then her property would devolve on the brother and sister of the deceased husband.

Thus, in the case of the self-acquired property of a Hindu married female dying intestate, her property devolves on her husband’s heirs. Her paternal and material heirs do not inherit, but the distant relations of her husband would inherit as per the husband’s heirs.

The case for change

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted when, in the structure of the Hindu society, women hardly went out to work. There has been a vast change in the social scene in the past few years and women have made progress in all spheres. The consequence is that women are owning property earned by their own skill. These situations were not foreseen by the legislators.

If that is so, what is the impact of these socio-economic changes? Do they warrant any change in the law of succession in relation to the property of a female Hindu dying intestate? What is the fallout of a gradual disintegration of the joint Hindu family and the emergence of nuclear families as a unit of society over the years in the context of law of succession governing the issue at hand?

A fundamental tenet of the law of succession has been the proximity of relation in which a Successor stands to the person who originally held the property that may be the subject matter of inheritance in a given case. The fact that women have been given the right to inherit from her parental side also assumes relevance in the present context. These developments and changes lead to competing arguments and approaches that may be taken in re-defining the law of succession in case of a female Hindu dying intestate. Thus, three alternative options emerge for consideration, namely:

1. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve first upon her heirs from the natal family.

2. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve equally upon the heirs of her husband and the heirs from her natal family.

3. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve first upon the heirs of her husband.

The third option may be taken first as this can be disposed of summarily. The option essentially means continuation of the status quo. We have seen earlier that socio-economic changes warrant corresponding changes in the law as well.

We may now take up the first option. The protagonists of this approach contend that the general order of succession reflects a gender bias. It will be relevant to refer to a passage in Pradhan Saxena – Succession Laws and Gender Justice in Re-defining Family Law in India by Archana Parasar, Amit Dhanda, New Delhi.

The supporters of the said approach contend that the joint family system has slowly eroded and that an increasing number of nuclear and semi-nuclear families have replaced the traditional Mitakshara Hindu joint family system. Women are also becoming more economically independent. With the growth of the nuclear family, a married woman’s dependency on her natal family and continued closeness to it is much greater today even if it was not so earlier. Most married women would prefer that their parents should be the more preferred heirs to inherit her property if her children and husband are not alive. She would also prefer that her sister and brother have a better right to inherit her property than her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Accordingly, it is urged that Section 15(1) should be modified to ensure that the general order of succession does not place a woman’s husband’s heirs above those who belong to her natal family like her father and mother and thereafter, her brother and sister. It is contended that when a man dies intestate, his wife’s relatives do not even figure in the order of succession despite the manner in which he may have acquired the property. In view of this, parity is sought in the case of a female by applying the same rules as applicable to male’s property.

Accordingly, it is suggested that it would be better to amend Section 15(1) to specify the general rules of devolution, which will apply not only to self-acquired property by a woman, but also to other property acquired through her family, gifts, etc. The only proviso which would then be needed would be the property that a woman acquires from her husband’s family.

The second option in this regard is that the property of a female Hindu dying intestate devolves upon the heirs depending upon the source from which, the said property was acquired by her, the self-acquired property of such female be simultaneously inherited by her heirs both from the husband family as well as the natal family in equal share. The fact remains that in spite of her closeness to and dependence on her natal family, her relations with her husband’s family are not separated and uprooted in entirety. She continues to be a member of her husband’s family, getting support from it in all walks of life. One cannot afford to ignore the ground realities in this regard. The social ethos and the mores of our patriarchal system demand that the existing system should not be totally reversed as claimed by the protagonists of the first option. Lest, there may be social and family tensions which may not be in the overall interest of the family as a whole and as such, ought to be avoided. In any case, it is open to the female Hindu to bequeath her property the way she likes by executing a Will.

Conclusions

In the present scenario, when amendments are made to the effect that women have been entitled to inherit property from her parental side as well as from husband’s side, it will be quite justified if equal right is given to her parental heirs along with her husband’s heirs to inherit her property.

It is, therefore, proposed that in order to bring about a balance, Section 15 should be amended, so that in case a female Hindu dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property with no heirs, as mentioned in Clause ‘a’ of Section 15, the property should devolve on her husband’s heirs and also on the heirs of her paternal side.

If this amendment is brought about, the effect will be as under:

A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving self-acquired property at the time of her death, the only surviving relatives being her mother-in-law (L) and her mother (M).

Pre-Amendment

As per the present law, her property would devolve entirely on ‘L’ and ‘M’ will not get anything from her property.

Post Amendment

By the proposed amendment, her mother-in-law and mother should equally inherit her self-acquired property.

A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving self-acquired property and she has no heirs as per Clause ‘a’ of the Schedule, the only surviving relatives are her husband’s brother and sister (BL & SL) and her own brother and sister (B&S).

Pre-Amendment

As per the present law, her property would normally devolve upon ‘BL’ and ‘SL’. ‘B’ and ‘S’ do not inherit anything from her in this property.

Post Amendment

By the proposed amendment, her own brother and sister should equally inherit along with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

The above amendment, suggested by me as Chairman of 18 {+t} {+h} Law Commission as early as in June 2008 in the public interest, is still pending with the Union Law Ministry.

(The writer is a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Law Commission of India. His email id is jusarlakshmanan@ gmail.com)

Section 15 should be amended, so that in case a female Hindu dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property with no heirs, as mentioned in Clause ‘a’ of Section 15, the property should devolve on her husband’s heirs and also on the heirs of her paternal side.

Enactment of a new legislation in place of Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 – Introduction of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition ) Bill, 2011

The Union Cabinet today approved the proposal for the enactment of a new legislation in the form of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill, 2011 to replace the existing Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 and for its introduction in Parliament. During the process of formulating the rules for implementing certain provisions of the present Act which was passed in 1988, it was found that owing to infirmities in the legislation, formulation of the rules would not be possible without a comprehensive legislation by repealing the Act. The Bill contains elaborate provisions dealing with the definition of benami transaction and benami property, prohibited benami transactions, consequences of entering into a prohibited benami transaction and the procedure for implementing the benami law. Properties held by a coparcener in a Hindu undivided family and property held by a person in fiduciary capacity are excluded from the definition of benami transaction. Further, properties acquired by an individual in the name of spouse, brother or sister or any lineal ascendant or descendant are benami transactions which are not prohibited. Consequently, they are not subject to penal provisions.

Where any person enters into a benami transaction in order to defeat the provisions of any law or to avoid payment of statutory dues or to avoid payment to creditors, the beneficial owner, benamidar and any other person who abets or induces any person to enter into such benami transaction, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to a fine. A benami property shall also be liable for confiscation by the Adjudicating Authority after the person concerned has been given due opportunity of being heard.

Background:

The major infirmities of the existing Act were:

  1. Powers of a civil court have to be conferred on the authorities under the Act.
  2. Specific provisions have to be introduced for vesting of confiscated property with the Central Government.
  3. An appropriate appellate structure has to be defined, while barring jurisdiction of a civil court against an action taken by the authorities under the Act.
  4. Matters of procedure relating to its administration, notice of hearing to parties concerned, service of notice and orders, powers of the competent authority relating to gathering of evidence etc are to be provided.
  5. The word ‘wife’ needs to be replaced with the word ‘spouse’ and property purchased in the name of certain other family members is to be allowed under the Act.

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007

PRS LEGISLATIVE

The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 25th February 2009 (the last day of the session) but the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

The acquisition of land by governments for development and industrialisation has become a contentious political issue in recent years.  Many have criticized the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, as a draconian piece of legislation which has been used to forcibly acquire land without paying adequate compensation. Given the increasing chorus of protests over such issues as displacement and rights over land, the government is planning to introduce an amendment to the 1894 Act.

The Amendment attempts to expand the rights of those whose land is being acquired while restricting the types of projects for which governments can acquire land. It also provides for a separate authority to settle disputes over land acquisition. A companion piece of legislation (the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007) attempts to specify the benefits that displaced people will receive.

 Highlights of the Bill

  • The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 amends The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
  • For acquisition resulting in large-scale displacement, a social impact assessment study must be conducted. Tribals, forest dwellers, and those with tenancy rights are also eligible for compensation.
  • Acquisition costs will include payment for loss or damages to land, and costs related to resettlement of displaced residents.
    While determining compensation, the intended use of land and value of such land in the current market is to be considered.
  • The Bill establishes the Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority at the state and central levels to adjudicate disputes resulting from land acquisition proceedings.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The Bill bars the jurisdiction of civil courts on all matters related to land acquisition. It is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a person may challenge the qualification of a project as ‘public purpose.’
  • The Settlement Authority is a judicial body but could be entirely staffed by members without judicial qualifications or experience.
  • When acquired land is resold, the original acquirer is to distribute 80% of the capital gains to the original owners or their heirs. This implies that every acquirer must track the original owners and their heirs in perpetuity. Also, the resale price of land may be difficult to compute when it is part of a larger deal in which a company is taken over.
  • Companies have to offer part of compensation as shares or debentures. Unlike shares, debentures do not provide the land owner with a share of the profits of the project.
  • The Bill makes special provisions for compensation if land is acquired under ‘urgency’. The term ‘urgency’ is not defined.