No more denotification of acquired land of which possession has already been taken. Process of denotification to be non-arbitrary, fair; views of affected persons to be heard.

After facing serious criticism from various quarters, including from the Karnataka High Court for indiscriminately denotifying acquired land, the State government has come out with a set of guidelines aimed at preventing “unilateral” decisions to denotify land acquired for public purposes.

The government has decided not to denotify any land of which possession has already been taken by the authorities concerned, and is laying down a set of guideline for taking possession of land after acquisition.

Denotification of land, particularly during the tenure of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, acquired decades ago had come under scrutiny from statutory forums, and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its November 2012 report had pointed out that the State’s authorities had subverted a well-settled law that land cannot be denotified after taking possession.

Also, a high-level committee, headed by an Additional Chief Secretary, has been set up for scrutinising all applications, pending and new, for denotification of land in cases where possession of acquired land has not been taken by the authorities concerned.

Guidelines

The guidelines state that the discretionary power under Section 48 ((1), in cases where possession of land has not been taken, can be exercised by the government only in a “fair and non-arbitrary manner”.

The government would also be under an obligation to hear the views of the company or cooperative house building society or agency or instruments of the State, for whose benefit lands were acquired, before passing orders on application for denotification. And the government should also hear the views of parties likely to be affected by the order of withdrawal from acquisition or cancellation of notification to withdraw from the acquisition of land.

Similarly, guidelines for taking possession of the land states that the authority shall go to the spot [land] and prepare panchanama for taking possession. If there are standing crops on the land or buildings exist, the concerned authority should issue notice to the cultivator or occupier of the buildings and prepare panchanama in the presence of independent witnesses at the time of taking possession, and obtain their signature on panchanama.

If the acquisition is of a large tract of land, the authority should take possession of land by preparing panchanama in the presence of independent witnesses and get their signatures on such documents. Photographs, videographs and aerial pictures can also be taken to avoid alteration of land subsequent to taking over possession. These guidelines would be applicable for the land acquisition process under the Land Acquisition Act, the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act, the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board, the Karnataka Housing Board and the Bangalore Development Authority Act.