Apex Court upholds TN Land Acquisition Laws of 2019

Krishnadas Rajagopal New Delhi | Updated on June 30, 2021

The petitioners, whose lands face acquisition, had submitted that the Act was violative of the central law

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act of 2019 as a “legitimate legislative exercise” which won Presidential assent.

A Bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar rejected the pleas made by G Mohan Rao and other petitioners, who contended that the 2019 law, with retrospective effect, should be struck down as “unconstitutional, illegal and void”.

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The petitioners, whose lands face acquisition, had submitted that the Act was violative of the central law - Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.

Senior advocate P Wilson, appearing for the petitioners in the case with advocate Suhrith Parthasarathy, had argued that the 2019 Act was a means to revive the operation of Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Schemes Act, 1978; Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997; and Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001, National Highways Act, 1956 - which were struck down. The 2019 State law was applied retrospectively from September 2013 to validate pending acquisitions under the three State enactments.

Legislative power

Justice Khanwilkar said legislature has the power to make laws with retrospective effect.

This power, Justice Khanwilkar observed, emanated from the “basic principle that a legislature is deemed to be the main protagonist of the public interest at large. The legislature is the bulwark of a democratic polity. It is also beyond debate that a legislature can validate an invalidated law by removing the cause for such invalidity through a legislative exercise,” he said, upholding the intent of the 2019 law to revive the three State enactments.

The Court noted that the 2019 Act was a conscious attempt by the State legislature to bring four material aspects of land acquisition under the three State enactments at par with the 2013 Act — compensation, rehabilitation, resettlement and infrastructure facilities.

‘Duly passed’

“In this case, the State legislature duly passed the 2019 Act on a subject of the Concurrent List in the presence of a law made by the Parliament (2013 Act) and obtained the assent of the President on December 2, 2019 after duly placing the State law before the President and duly stating the reason for reserving it for his assent,” the judgment noted.

The petitioners had argued that agricultural lands owned by them were acquired in “bits and pieces” for the purpose of connectivity from Ennore Port to Mahabalipuram under the Chennai Peripheral Ring Road Project.

The petitioners had said the purpose of the 2013 Act to protect agriculturists and landowners from losing their lands, sometimes owned through generations, without reasonable compensation was defeated.

Published on June 29, 2021

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