By M.C. Linthoingambee
The Kings Ruled – Once upon a time perhaps, Kings and Queens were the richest of the richest in the land and owned more than the so called commoners. Time has indeed bought certain changes. Earlier, whoever occupied a particular land and started cultivating on it became the owner of the land. It is not the same anymore. After the British regime in India came to an end, the introduction of the Zamindari system resulted in more harm and disparity among the poor peasants and farmers of the land. ‘Right to Property’ was contained under the paradigm of the fundamental rights before things went hither and thither, thereby allowing the legislators or law makers to officially deduce it to the role of being a legal or statutory right instead.
In today’s world, Right to Property is one of the most contended rights whilst arising and debated over and over again as common issues. What would you do if someone from the Government comes to your door and asks you to get out because they need your land? Freaking out would seem the righteous answer logically but it is perhaps best not to overdo it and wait for the situation to settle and calm. The Constitution of India had a certain Article 19 (1) (f) which gave fundamental rights in acquiring, holding or disposing of a property although some reasonable restrictions were provided for. This came to an end with the 44th Constitutional Amendments in the hope of exercising arbitrary powers towards private property at the will of the Government authority. The present day provisions state that the Central or the State Government may have the authority to land acquisition or requisition with due notice to the Official Gazette and confirming the authority of law conferred in the legislative machinery. This authority is the reason why many homes have been restructured, shifted, constructed, then and again. Article 31 of our Constitution often narrates what is often been described in political and legal parlance as the ‘eminent domain’ power of the State. It is the inherent power of the Government which imposes the emphasis of their sovereignty by allowing compulsory acquisition of private property for a public purpose upon payment of just compensation. The rationale of including the twin requirements for the purpose of public use by providing just compensation is based on the principle that no individual should have to abandon their land unnecessarily except as approved by causes of law. The terms ‘Acquisition and Requisition of Property’ were included as a subject in the Concurrent List enabling both Parliament and the State Legislatures to enact laws on the subject.
Over the last year or so, India has played with different cards by enacting and re-enacting a series of land acquisition laws in the hope of developing both socially and economically. The most important law of those that has remained till today is the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 functioning enthusiastically thereby covering the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. There has been widespread acquisition of land by the State for dams, infrastructure and other industrial projects. These were done and conducted for the better man of the people but heaven knows if they have truly indeed served their cause. The massive displacement and dispossession of a large amount of the amount and the traditional communities as like forest dwellers, cattle grazers, fisherman, and of the like are left with option of staying homeless or dealing with a certain inevitable change. Due to the increase in the impacts of such undertakings the environment is slowly declining in its health and due to its major loss, several conflicts come into picture. There has been huge outcry in the legislatures to replace the earlier system with the proposal of the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011 which is currently pending in the Parliament. Even so, if we discuss further into the past features of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 it provides and outlines the purposes for acquiring land, procedure for the acquisition and compensation for the same. Yes, it is a sure call that the stringent Act has also caused up some widespread public discontent. With hardly a place to move in the urban regions of the country, there is land scarcity indeed with the variance of the sky rocket prices of rents or cost on flats and houses wherein land acquisition connotes a series of controversies. Therefore, at the end of the foray it is not just the compensation people are worried out but the benefits that the uncertain projects will bring up later.
The arbitrariness that comes with the factor of the acts of land acquisition needs to take flight and go aloof if at all these mission for government intervention of the private property for a public benefit, use or interests is to take place effectively.
(M.C. Linthoingambee is an undergraduate pursuing B.Com. LL.B(H). An avid blogger, poet, a seasonal artist and a foodie, she is also a life member to the Indian Society of the Red Cross.)