The Land Acquisition Bill, which strengthens landowners’ rights during acquisition for development, has finally received the nod of the Union Cabinet, and is likely to be introduced in Parliament during the final week of the winter session.
The final version of the bill was approved by the Cabinet on Thursday, more than a year after Parliament sent the earlier avatar to a Standing Committee. In the months since, the bill has gone through multiple changes, been vetted by Cabinet — where infrastructure ministries objected to provisions seen as hurdles to investment and industry — and been the subject of three rounds of discussion in a ministerial panel headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
In a final compromise between Mr. Pawar’s views and those of UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, the bill now requires the consent of only 70 per cent of land owners when the government acquires land for a public-private partnership (PPP) project. A slightly higher bar — 80 per cent consent — has been put in place for all other types of projects.
The bill, which aims to replace the outdated British-era Land Acquisition Act, 1894, will introduce the concepts of mandatory rehabilitation and resettlement of those displaced by government acquisitions.
While the new legislation will not be applied retrospectively to acquisitions that have been completed, some ongoing projects could come into the net. The final version reportedly includes a clause stating that if the entire process of acquisition is not completed — including taking possession of the land and payment of compensation — within five years then resettlement and rehabilitation will have to be carried out under the terms of the new legislation.