Haryana Land Bill: Congress MP Kiran Choudhry urges President to withhold assent

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Kiran Choudhry, Senior Congressman in Haryana and Tosham MLA, has written to Indian President Draupadi Murmu asking her to withhold her assent to the bill – The right to fair compensation and transparency in acquisition, rehabilitation and Land Resettlement (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2021. The Governor of Haryana had returned the bill, which seeks to speed up development projects by simplifying the procedure of land acquisition, for the assent of the President under Article 254 of the Constitution of India.

Calling the bill “disguised, unconstitutional and perverse legislation totally contrary to the main central law in letter and spirit”, Kiran Choudhry wrote that this memorandum is a prayer for fair play for farmers, tenants, craftsmen and laborers whose only means of subsistence and livelihood depend on agricultural land. While we accept the dire need for state land acquisition for rapid development infrastructure projects, this must be done through a humane, transparent and fair process of adequate compensation/resettlement/rehabilitation of all those affected.

The new bill which was passed by the Assembly of Haryana in 2021 placed public-private partnership (PPP) projects under the “exempt” category, for which Social Impact Assessment (SIA )/landowner consent, a requirement under the Central Land Acquisition Act 2013, is not required. The opposition Congress criticized the bill for being allegedly “anti-farmer” and promoting “crony capitalism”.

Kiran Choudhry said the bill, challenged by this memorandum, seeks to upset this tenuous balance enshrined in the central benign law. “We have high hopes for a positive outcome in this matter, as the elevation of Madam President to this august office embodies the undying hope of the dreams of deprived and marginalized citizens taking a trajectory of achievement breaking through the glass ceiling. privileges and rights in a stratified society”.

Further knocking on the provisions of the bill, Choudhry said the bill was rushed and approved during a short period of the August 2021 session of Haryana Vidhan Sabha, ignoring the loud protests and a walkout. “Understandably, any meaningful discussion of the bill was stifled and crushed, due process deliberations were avoided during the approval of the aforementioned bill. It is given to us to understand that this contentious Bill has been returned by the Honorable Governor of Haryana for Presidential Assent under Section 254 read together with Sections 200/201 of the Constitution of India on 20.12.2021”.

“Provisions 2 and 3 seek to exempt irrigated multi-crop agricultural land from the prohibition on acquisition, not only for government projects but also for the private sector under the guise of public-private partnership by seeking to insert 10A after Article 10 of the Principal Law These provisions have the effect of waiving the legal safeguards of either requesting the consent of 70% of the relevant stakeholders (as provided for in Article 2 of the Principal Law), or of carrying out a social impact assessment of these projects, which is in complete contravention of the basic spirit of the central main law.The sole purpose of this proposed amendment appears to be to open up lush, prime agricultural land to the acquisition by large corporations, waiving the safeguards of the benign principal law Section 10A which is sought to be inserted into the principal law under the aforementioned bill, provides th n addition to exempting such acquisition of land from the application of Chapters II and III of the main statute, rendering this article absurd, self-derogating and void,” Choudhry wrote.

The MLA has stated that provision 4 of the proposed bill is completely contrary to the principles of natural justice and fair play, as it seeks to arm the collector with draconian powers to announce the award of the acquisition without a visit to place or investigation in the event that such acquisition is with the consent of the persons interested in the land.

“Provision 6 of the bill is all the more draconian in that it is intended to confer on the tax collector the arbitrary power to dispose of the property of a person occupying a building on acquired land, in exemption from safeguarding the notice of 48 hours provided for in article 40 of the main central law. Provision 5 of the Bill seeks to limit lump sum compensation in lieu of rehabilitation and resettlement to 50% of such compensation determined under section 27, which is contrary to section 40(5) of the main law,” she said.

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