Naveen government has misused Land Acquisition Act, says CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has found that the Naveen Patnaik government has ‘misused’ the Land Acquisition Act for acquiring land for several big industrial projects, including the proposed mega steel plant by South Korean steel major Posco.

“Emergency Provisions of Section 17 (4) were misused and applied arbitrarily even without indicating detailed justification for the same and without fulfilment of prescribed conditions,” the CAG has stated.

The CAG report was tabled in the Odisha Assembly on Thursday.

According to the CAG, under the Act, the government is empowered to acquire land in case of urgency, invoking provisions prescribed in Section 17 (4), without giving land losers the opportunity to contest the propriety of the acquisition and the opportunity to be heard as per Section 5 A of the Act.

Such acquisitions are to be made for a specific purpose, subject to fulfilment of prescribed conditions and the acquisition process is to be completed within six months, the report says.

There can never be denial of citizens’ rights under the garb of urgency or necessity.

“An examination of 85 land acquisition cases, in which provisions of Section 17 (4) of the Land Acquisition Act were invoked by the government, revealed that 4,967.08 acres of private land valued at Rs. 165 crore (approximately the present market value is Rs. 901.305 crore) was acquired, between July 2002 and March 2011, for establishments by six promoters,” says the CAG report.

The six companies are Posco (India) Limited in Jagatsinghpur, Vedanta Alumina Limited in Kalahandi, Dhamra Port Company Limited in Bhadrak and Aditya Aluminium Limited, Bhusan Power and Steel Limited and Viraj Steel and Energy Limited in Sambalpur district.

“It was noticed that none of the conditions prescribed in executive instructions of September 1985 for invoking the emergency provisions was fulfilled in all these cases. Instead of giving detailed justification for applying such provision, only general remarks like ‘the project is being executed on a priority basis’, ‘requirement of land was emergent in nature’ were indicated in the applications by the requisitioning officers,” it says. Also, the State government invoked emergency provisions for acquiring 437.86 acres for Posco projects.

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