SC asks Centre to explain Land Ordinance re-issue

Rajat Kain

Land_Ordinance1The apex court has questioned the Central government over the re-issue of an Ordinance amending Land Acquisition Act 2013. Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre seeking reply on contentions raised by a Public Interest Litigation challenging the fresh promulgation of land acquisition ordinance.

The Ordinance was re-promulgated by the NDA government on 3rd April, a day before it was to lapse. The Ordinance amending the original Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 was first issued on 29th December 2014.

The PIL is filed by various organisations including Bhartiya Kisan Union and Delhi Grameen Samaj. Appearing for the petitioners, top lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaisingh told the press “court has issued a show cause notice to the Government of India. The bench has sought for the records which were placed before the cabinet and subsequently before the President explaining the reasons why ordinance was re-issued“.

The PIL was mentioned last week before the bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, who posted the hearing for today. The petition was heard by the bench of Justice JS Khehar and Justice SA Bobde.

Seeking an intervention of the 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”.

The Ordinance on land acquisition has relegated Narendra Modi led-NDA government on a defensive ever since the beginning of a Budget session. The ordinance has been opposed by the collective opposition parties along with various farmer bodies and civil society. It has been passed in the Lok Sabha in the first leg of the Budget session, but the government 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.

So far all government efforts to get the opposition parties on board have not yielded much. This has even led to the government and BJP members defending the need to issue that ordinance.

Earlier today, PM Modi once again highlighted his government’s move concerning the land acquisition. “We are instituting a rational framework for acquisition of land without causing distress to farmers and other landowners,” he said in Hannover while wooing global investors to India during his address at the inauguration of Hanover Fair.