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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Friday, 21 June 2024 3.21 PM IST

Supreme Court issues landmark ruling to protect landowners in acquisition cases

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The government has the right to acquire the land of private individuals for public purposes. However, no land acquisition has taken place without disputes and lawsuits. In the past, the compensation was minimal, which was the main point of contention. Moreover, the landowner often lacked knowledge about the compensation they would receive. As a result, agitation was common wherever the government took over land. Over time, the practice of paying two or three times the market price for acquired land was established. Consequently, the old objections to government land acquisition have diminished. Nevertheless, land acquisition is still not smooth in many places. Often, the government fails to provide clear information to the landowner leading to problems.

A judgment passed by the Supreme Court yesterday should ease landowners' concerns on this issue. The Supreme Court has directed that landowners should be properly informed and their objections considered before proceeding with the land acquisition process. The court specified seven measures to be followed by the government in land acquisition proceedings. A bench of Justices P.S. Narasimha and Arvind Kumar clarified that these measures reflect the important elements of central and state laws relating to land acquisition.

The first duty of the government is to give notice to the owner before the land acquisition process starts. The lack of this notice often led landowners to believe false propaganda. The notice should specify the amount of land to be acquired and the amount to be paid as compensation. The court pointed out that this is part of the fundamental right of citizens to be informed. Since the owner has the right to raise objections with the land acquisition authority, the authority should properly investigate these objections. There should be a takeover announcement that considers the objections. Another requirement is that the land acquisition must be for public purposes. This will be subject to the court's decision and the court can quash the action if it is not in the public interest.

It is a common practice in the country for the government to acquire and hand over land to big companies to set up factories. This requirement may create further obstacles. Another important stipulation is that the government should ensure resettlement if the landowner demands it, along with fair compensation. In many places, it takes years after land acquisition is announced. This prolonged process makes the landowner more vulnerable. As a solution, the court suggests that the entire process, from locating and inspecting the land to paying the compensation, should be completed within a reasonable time frame. This is likely the condition that will please landowners the most. It can be assumed that this Supreme Court verdict will put an end to the endless waits associated with land acquisition.

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