Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

On January 1, 2014, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 has come into force. This law replaced the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The law regulates the acquisition of land by government (Centre and states except J&K) for industrialisation, development of essential infrastructural facilities and urbanisation. It puts in place the rules for granting compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement to the affected persons. The law makes sure that__:

  • The affected persons get fair compensation when their land is taken away
  • Transparency is brought into the process of land acquisition
  • Adequate provisions are made for rehabilitation of the affected people
  • The affected families are least disturbed.
  • Local self government including Gram Sabhas are consulted in the process of land acquisition
  • The affected persons become partners in development post acquisition.
  • Mandatory consent of at least 70% of affected people for acquiring land for public-private partnership (PPP) projects and 80% for acquiring land for private companies.

This act is applicable when it is for a public purpose and:

  • Government acquires the land for its own use.
  • Government acquires the land for use of Public sector companies (PSUs)
  • Government acquires the land for ultimate purpose of transferring it to private partners.

The act is NOT applicable when

  • Land is acquired for national or state highway projects
  • Land is acquired under some acts such as Special Economic Zones Act, 2005, Atomic Energy Act, 1962, the Railways Act, 1989 etc.

What is Public Purpose?

Public purpose includes the following:

  • Strategic use by the armed forces, paramilitary, state police for national security
  • Infrastructure projects except private hospitals, private education institutions and private hotels
  • Projects related to industrial corridors, mining, national investment and manufacturing zone, sports, healthcare, tourism and space programmes
  • housing projects for income groups specified by government
  • projects planned for development of village sites, residential areas for lower income groups in urban areas
  • projects involving agro-processing, warehousing, cold storage, marketing infrastructure, dairy, fisheries and meat processing cooperatives

First stage: Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Study by Government

The process of land acquisition starts with the Preparation of Social Impact Assessment Study. Whenever government intends to acquire land for a public purpose, it shall consult the concerned Gram Sabha, Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation and then carry out a Social Impact Assessment study in consultation with them. When and how this consultation will take place, is defined by the government via notification.

Such notification will be brought out in local language and will be made available to the Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation and the offices of District Collector and SDM. It will be published in the local media and will be uploaded on relevant website of the government. The act mandates the government to ensure that adequate representation has been given to the representatives of Panchayat, Gram Sabha, Municipality or Municipal Corporation while conducting such SIA study. This study has to be finished in 6 months time.

Subject matter of SIA

The subject matter of the SIA includes answering the following questions.

  • Does the proposed acquisition really serve a public purpose?
  • How many families would be affected and how many of them will be displaced?
  • What is the extent of the public and private land including the houses is going to be affected?
  • Is the land proposed to be acquired is absolute bare minimum extent needed for the proposed project?
  • If the acquisition at a different place was considered and found not feasible.
  • What will be the nature and cost of addressing the social impacts over there?
  • A simultaneously completed Environment Impact Assessment

After the SIA has been finished, the government would prepare Social Impact Management Plan. This plan would list all that would be needed to ameliorate the impacts caused by the land acquisition. The SIA includes a public hearing in the affected area. The report of the SIA is made public and is made available to local government offices.

Stage-2: Appraisal of SIA

Once the SIA study is over and its report is ready, the government will refer this report to an independent multi-disciplinary Expert Group. This expert group has to be constituted by the government. This expert group has representatives as follows:

  • Two non-official social scientists
  • Two representatives of the local self government i.e. Panchayat, Gram Sabha, Municipality or Municipal Corporation
  • Two rehabilitation experts
  • One technical expert.

The chairperson of this expert group will be the person nominated from any of the above members. This group will study the SIA report. If this group finds that the project does not serve any public purpose or the social costs and adverse social impacts of the project outweigh the potential benefits, they will recommend so within 2 months time. Once it is done, no acquisition can take place and the entire process is abandoned. However, story does not end here. Even if the expert group says no, the government is able to acquire the land. The Government would need to record in writing that__:

  • project is legitimate and bona fide public purpose
  • it’s potential benefits and the public purpose outweigh the social costs and adverse social impact
  • minimum area of land required is proposed to be acquired
  • There is no unutilized land which has been previously acquired in the area.

The above discussion makes it clear that although the expert group has power to reject the project, the government shall have an upper hand and overriding powers.

Stage 3: Notification and acquisition

After the above two stages are complete, the government would put in place a preliminary notification in which it would publish the details of the land acquired. This notification will be made accessible in local area via various media. The local governments are informed about this notification. Once the notification is out, no person of the affected area can sell any land or make any other land related transactions. The officers are empowered to enter upon and survey and take levels of any land in the area. The Collector, the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement shall conduct a survey and undertake a census of the affected families. A draft Rehabilitation and Resettlement scheme is prepared by the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement. The details of this scheme are made available to local public via various media.

Determination of the market value of the land:

The determination of the market value of land is done by collector or equivalent officer. The price will be based upon the average sale deed prices of the area in vicinity.

Stage 4: Rehabilitation and Resettlement Awards

After the land acquisition is over, the collector shall pass Rehabilitation and Resettlement Awards for each affected family. This award will comprise:

  • Amount payable to a family
  • Bank account number of the person to whom the amount is tranferred
  • Particulars of the house site and house to be alloted in case of displacement
  • Particulars of land allotted to the displaced families
  • Particulars of one time subsistence allowance and transportation allowance in case of displaced families
  • Other such payments and allowances as per the act

Rehabilitation and Resettlement

First of all, the state government will appoint two officers viz. Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement and Commissioner for Rehabilitation and Resettlement. The former is a senior rank to later. The Commissioner is responsible for supervising the formulation of rehabilitation and resettlement schemes or plans. Further, a Committee under the chairmanship of the Collector to be called the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee is also formed by the state government. This committee reviews the implementation of Rehabilitation and Resettlement scheme. This committee has representatives of the affected families and nominees of local MLA also.

In case of interstate land acquisition, the central government can form a National Monitoring Committee for reviewing and monitoring the implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement schemes.

Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority

The state government will establish a “One Person” Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority headed by its only one member called Presiding Officer. This Presiding Officer is to be appointed by the State Government. He must be either qualified to be a District Judge or must have seven years law practice experience. The state government would consult the Chief Justice of a High Court for such appointment. The authority has been vested with powers of a civil court. This authority will have original jurisdiction to adjudicate upon matters related to this law.

Computation of compensation

The computation of the compensation takes into account the following:

  • Market value of the land
  • Value of the assets attached to land: Building/Trees/Wells/Crop etc as valued by relevant govt. authority;
  • Solatium: that is 100% of the compensation.

In summary, the package comprises four times the market price of rural land and up to twice the value of urban land. The government also makes payments for relocation and resettlement of dislocated people. The compensation would be Rs 5 lakh or a job, if available, to the affected family; subsistence allowance of Rs 3,000 a month for one year; miscellaneous allowances of up to Rs 1.25 lakh for each family.

Provision regarding acquisition of the multicropped land:

The act says that no irrigated multi-cropped land can be acquired except under exceptional circumstances. Moreover, if a multi-crop irrigated land is acquired then, an equivalent area of culturable wasteland shall be developed for agricultural purposes or an amount equivalent to the value of the land acquired shall be deposited with the appropriate Government for investment in agriculture for enhancing food-security.

Provision regarding acquisition of SC and ST land

The act says that as far as possible, no acquisition of land shall be made in the Scheduled Areas; however, if such acquisition has to be done, it can be done only as a last resort. Prior consent of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats or the autonomous District Councils in Fifth Schedule areas will be taken in all cases of acquisition. In such areas, a Development Plan will be prepared and launched for development of alternate fuel, fodder and, non-timber forest produce resources on non-forest lands within a period of five years. In case of acquisition of the SC and ST land, minimum one-third of the compensation amount due shall be paid to the affected families initially as first instalment and the rest shall be paid after taking over of the possession of the land. In case of resettlement, all benefits, including the reservation benefits available to the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes in the affected areas shall continue in the resettlement area.

Jurisdiction of courts

If there is a dispute related to land acquisition, no civil court other than High Court or the Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to entertain such disputes.