The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday despite a stiff opposition from a number of parties, which questioned the need to amend the 2013 law even before it has been tested properly.
When the Bill will be taken up for discussion is unclear even as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu indicated that a middle ground was being attempted in consultation with other parties. He did not spell it out, but the government is considering referring the Bill to a joint committee of both Houses to avoid the Rajya Sabha referring it to a Select Committee. If it is sent to a standing committee in the Lok Sabha, then the Rajya Sabha can still insist on a Select Committee reference. But if it is put to a joint committee, then the Rajya Sabha – where the government is in a minority – cannot refer it to a Select Committee.
Various arguments were put forth by the opposition against the introduction of the Bill that seeks to replace the second ordinance promulgated in four months to amend the land acquisition law enacted in 2013 with near-unanimous support, including the BJP. While the Congress, Trinamool Congress, BJD and the CPI(M) were one in describing the new Bill as anti-farmer and pro-corporate, some of them also raised procedural issues.
B. Mahtab (BJD) wanted to know how the Minister could bring in the second Bill when the status of the first Bill passed by the Lok Sabha in March was unknown. “It is like a trishanku ,” he said; an argument later echoed by Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress). Calling it a “land grab Bill'', M.B. Rajesh (CPI-M) said the government created an extraordinary situation by proroguing the Rajya Sabha to repromulgate the ordinance that is now being replaced by the new Bill. N. K. Premachandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) questioned the legality of the Bill on the premise that it was identical to the one passed by the Lok Sabha in March.
Seeking permission to introduce the Bill, Union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh's claim that both the Bills were with him triggered a row as members sought to remind him that technically a draft legislation introduced in Parliament remains its property till cleared by both Houses. After both sides had their say, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan put the matter to vote and the Bill was introduced.