New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu on a plea challenging state amendments to the central land acquisition law following arguments that the states cannot make changes to the central law.
The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a batch of social activists, including Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, says that as a result of these amendments the laws exempt land acquisition in these states for infrastructure, industrial corridor, and housing projects.
The PIL sought quashing of the amendments by the state governments to the 2013 law saying they went against the “basic structure of the central Act".
It was claimed that the amendments gave exemption to large categories of projects from consent provisions, social impact assessment, objections by affected citizens and participation of local bodies, thus violating the fundamental rights of citizens under Article 14 (equality under law), 19(1)(g) (right to practise any profession, trade) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. These amendments also dilute provisions regarding the return of unutilized land, it says.
The plea cited the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973 where, in a 7:6 majority, it was held that basic structure of the Constitution could not be changed through a constitutional amendment. Similarly, a central Act passed by Parliament also has a basic structure and it cannot be amended by passing an ordinance under Article 254(2) of the Constitution.
States such as Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Telangana and Jharkhand, from time to time, approved amendments to the centrally legislated Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, doing away with social impact assessment and consent clauses required to be fulfilled for acquisition of land for public projects. This resulted in dilution of the central law, the petition says.