Land Ordinance challenged in Supreme Court

Rajat Kain

land-billThe Land Ordinance row has reached country’s top court. Supreme Court is set to hear a Public Interest Litigation challenging the fresh promulgation of land acquisition ordinance on Monday.

The Ordinance was re-promulgated by the Centre on 3rd April, a day before it was to lapse.

The PIL is filed by various organisations including Bhartiya Kisan Union and Delhi Grameen Samaj. Seeking an intervention of the apex court, petitioners have claimed that the government has “abandoned all principles of Constitutional morality by re-promulgating the ordinances”. The PIL was mentioned before the bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra.

The petitioners further contended that “the discretionary power of the President to promulgate ordinances has to be exercised judiciously. The law-making function under the Constitution was vested in Parliament”.

“If the Executive was permitted to continue the provisions of an ordinance by issuing successive ordinances without submitting the same to the voice of the Parliament, it is nothing but usurpation by the Executive of the law-making powers of the Legislature,” senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising argued for the petitioners.

The Ordinance on land acquisition has relegated Narendra Modi led-NDA government on a defensive ever since the beginning of a Budget session. Brought in by the union government in December 2014, the Ordinance has since been opposed by the collective opposition parties along with various farmer bodies and civil society. Though the Ordinance was passed in the Lok Sabha where government enjoys majority on its own, it was unable to even table the Ordinance in Rajya Sabha.

As the Ordinance was set to lapse on the 4th April, the government got it re-issued. The ordinance has now been re-promulgated after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent on 3rd April. The Ordinance is now valid for next six weeks or till the time government is able to get it cleared in the both the houses of Parliament within the six weeks.

The original Land Acquisition law was brought in by the Congress-led UPA government in the year 2013. Congress party is now at the forefront in opposing the Ordinance brining in changes in the original legislation. Congress has already sharpened its attack on the Ordinance terming it ‘anti-farmer’. In a series of protest, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi even led a march of opposition parties from the Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Opposition had then submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee requesting him not to sign the Ordinance in case the govt sought to re-issue it.

Though the Union government claims they are making efforts to take opposition on board over the issue of Land Acquisition Ordinance, the groups and stake holders opposing it have been unrelenting.

Earlier last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing his party’s top meet made a strong case of his government’s decision of bringing in an ordinance and re-issuing it.

“How did farmers lose their land? Where did it go? To get a job of a peon for their children or to make them a driver, they used to be compelled to sell their land to pay bribes. The (previous) governments compelled them to (sell land)”, PM Modi had said.