Land acquisition bill covers new ground


At the end of July, the Indian government published the long-awaited Draft National Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill, 2011. If passed by parliament, the bill will replace the antiquated Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which, for years has stifled India’s efforts to improve its infrastructure and created unnecessary disputes between industrialists, developers, landowners, land dwellers and those whose livelihoods depend on the land being acquired.

IMG_7760The new bill aims to simplify the land acquisition process and make it more equitable. It combines the issues of land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement, in an attempt to ensure that the latter is not ignored once the acquisition process has been completed.

The bill prohibits acquirers from altering the purpose for which land has been acquired and mandates that private acquirers must receive the consent of at least 80% of the landholders before the acquisition can proceed. While this provision promises landholders a greater say in the acquisition process, Tushar Desai, a partner at India Law Services, warns that it could potentially delay negotiations and fuel legal disputes, particularly because no time limit has been imposed on the landholders to grant approval for the sale.

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