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Navigating the Complex Terrain: Land Acquisition in India – A Comprehensive Analysis of Legal, Social, and Environmental Dimensions

Posted by: Aditya Pratap Law Offices on 2024-03-01


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Introduction :

Embassy Industrial Parks, a subsidiary of Blackstone recently acquired 124 acres for around Rs. 177 Crore from the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board in the Nelamangala Taluk.

Land acquisition in India is governed by The Land Acquisition Act, of 2013. The primary objective of the Act is to establish and oversee a transparent, participatory, educational, and self-governing land acquisition process that involves consultation with the Gram Sabha and local self-government. The construction of essential infrastructure and urbanization—both necessary for public purposes—are the two main objectives of this land acquisition process.

Ensuring equitable and fair compensation for landowners whose property is being acquired while considering all relevant economic and social factors is the second goal. likewise to ensure that the relevant policies and guidelines are followed.

When a property is purchased, not only the landowners but also other families who rely on it directly or indirectly suffer. The third main goal, which was left out of the previous Land Acquisition Act, is the rehabilitation and resettlement of the impacted landowners and their families.

There are three ways to acquire land: through the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013, private negotiations with landowners, or other Acts.

Process of Land Acquisition :

The process of acquiring land for public purposes in consultation with the respective local government is known as SIA (Social Impact Assessment). This process is initiated by the state government. Once the approval is granted, a public notification is published in the official gazette and two local newspapers. The public is given 60 days to raise objections. The land survey is then conducted, and relief and rehabilitation assessments are carried out. The land is marked, measured, and planned accordingly. Any claims regarding acquisition and relief and rehabilitation are dealt with by the government. Finally, after the completion of all the procedures, the government takes possession of the land for public use.

How is the title verified?

Title verification is a process that determines the ownership of a land for up to the last thirty years. This is done to ensure that the title is good and marketable. To conduct title verification, there are several steps that need to be followed, as outlined below:

1. The owner of the property and the land area must be ascertained using the survey number of the land.

2. In some states, land records have been digitized, which makes it easier to access them. However, if that is not the case in a state, the land records can be obtained by submitting an application at the sub-registrar’s office. Alternatively, RTIs can be used to obtain the information.

The next step is to extract primary documents that can help determine the ownership of the land. The required documents are the Record of Rights (7/12 extract, Satbara Utara) and the Register of Mutation (Form VI). These land records are maintained at the office of the sub-registrar and can be obtained through an RTI application.

Need for Environmental Clearance :

Environmental Clearance is a mandatory, time-consuming process for projects beyond a certain size. It often involves an environmental impact assessment of a potential project, along with public hearings. The process for clearance is outlined by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006. However, there are instances when compliance with these guidelines becomes a stumbling block in the development of projects.

In a recent case, The Project Director, Project Implementation Unit v. P.V. Krishnamoorthy & Ors., the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India encountered a similar issue regarding the Chennai-Salem eight-lane green corridor project worth Rs.10,000 crore. The project is a part of the “Bharatmala Pariyojna – Phase I”. The Court was posed with the question of whether the project can be implemented before obtaining Environment/Forest clearances. The bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar, B R Gavai, and Krishna Murari extensively analyzed the relevant provisions of the National Highways Act, 1956, the National Highways Rules, 1957, and the National Highway Authority of India Act, 1988.

The Court examined the Madras High Court’s decision that a prior environmental clearance was needed for the project and upheld the notifications for the acquisition of land for the project. The Hon’ble Court set aside the impugned judgment of the Madras High Court in its 140-page judgment. It held that the Central Government is not required to obtain prior environmental or forest clearance under the laws before declaring a stretch as a national highway (NH). This declaration expresses the government’s intention to acquire land for building, maintaining, or operating such roads.

 

Zonal Laws :

In 2005, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act was enacted, which permits the government to allocate land acquired for public purposes under the Land Acquisition Act to private companies for development. For private firms, the most significant incentive for participating in the SEZ scheme is the availability of land, which can be used for profit maximization. These regulations control the usage of land and the building of structures. Zoning laws dictate how a property can or cannot be used within a certain geographical area. Learn about common types of zoning laws and how they work here. Compliance with local zoning laws and land-use regulations is essential. Understanding permissible uses and obtaining necessary approvals or permits is part of the legal due diligence.

Conclusion :

In conclusion, the acquisition of 124 acres by Embassy Industrial Parks in Nelamangala Taluk highlights the intricacies involved in land acquisition in India, particularly governed by The Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The Act emphasizes transparent, participatory, and fair processes, with a focus on public purposes, equitable compensation, and the often overlooked aspect of rehabilitation and resettlement for affected landowners and their families.

The verification of land titles plays a crucial role in the acquisition process, ensuring ownership clarity for the last thirty years. Additionally, the necessity of environmental clearance, as exemplified in the Chennai-Salem eight-lane green corridor project case, underscores the importance of adhering to regulatory guidelines for sustainable and responsible development.

Furthermore, post-acquisition, compliance with Zonal Laws, especially the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act of 2005, becomes imperative. These laws allocate acquired land for public purposes to private companies, emphasizing the need for strict adherence to zoning regulations and land-use policies.

In essence, a holistic approach involving legal due diligence, social impact assessment, and environmental considerations is crucial to navigating the complex landscape of land acquisition in India, balancing development goals with the well-being of affected communities and environmental sustainability.

Aditya Pratap is a lawyer and founder of Aditya Pratap Law Offices. He practices in the realm of real estate, corporate, and criminal law. His website is adityapratap.in and his media interviews can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/@AdityaPratap/featured. Views expressed are personal.

This article has been assisted by Aishwarya, a 2nd-year law student pursuing B.A.,LL.B. (Hons.) from Chanakya National Law University, Patna.

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