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New Delhi: The government told the Supreme Court on Friday that the ordinance on land acquisition that is to lapse on 30 August will not be promulgated afresh.

The court was hearing a challenge against the 30 May re-promulgation of the ordinance by petitioners Bhartiya Kisan Union, Delhi Grameen Samaj, Gram Sewa Samiti and Chogama Vikas Avam Kalyan Samiti.

The court had issued notice to the Centre on their earlier petition against the ordinance on 14 April.

Separately, a government official confirmed that the ordinance would not be promulgated again and would be allowed to lapse.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had issued the ordinance on 29 December to introduce changes to some of the provisions of a 2013 land acquisition Act that was shepherded by the former Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.

The 2013 law, which replaced a law dating back to 1894, stipulated that consent of 70% farmers is required if land is being acquired for projects where the government is in partnership with private firms. For private projects, the consent of 80% of farmers is required before the land can be acquired. The 2013 law also made a social impact assessment mandatory before the land is acquired.

These provisions were seen as prohibitive by industry and blamed for the slowing growth of the economy.

With the NDA outlining plans to boost manufacturing and economic growth through its programmes like Make in India, the need for changes in the 2013 law was felt and the government brought in the ordinance. The ordinance has been re-promulgated thrice, the most recent being 30 May.

The government’s attempts to amend the 2013 law ran into trouble although the Lok Sabha—where the NDA has a clear majority—twice passed the 2015 land acquisition bill. The legislation got stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the government does not have the numbers.

The opposition led by the Congress party opposed changes to the consent and social impact assessment clauses stating that the two were inserted to protect farmers.

To break the logjam, the 2015 bill was referred to a joint committee of Parliament comprising 30 members of Parliament—20 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. The committee was constituted in May and was to submit its report on 21 July—the first day of the monsoon session.

However, even after 17 sittings, there was no consensus and the committee’s report is now expected to be submitted in the winter session of Parliament in November-December.

Adding to the government’s woes are views expressed by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, against the proposed law.

“The campaign run by the opposition that the 2015 bill is anti-farmer and the upcoming Bihar elections seem to have made the government do a rethink on the ordinance. The plan now is to allow states to frame their own land acquisition laws that the central government will approve," said the government official cited above, requesting anonymity.

Land being a subject on the concurrent list, one that states as well as the central government can make laws on, the central law will prevail in case of a conflict with provisions of a state law, said N.C. Saxena, former rural development secretary.

“The only way, as it seems to me, is for the central government to call a joint sitting of Parliament to get the land bill passed," he said. “We will have to wait and see what happens."

Apurva Vishwanath contributed to this story.

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