Land acquired for mining in 1988; Compensation to be disbursed to 4 villages under the R&R Act, 2013
The Supreme Court of India has ruled in favour of residents of four Odisha villages whose land had been acquired by Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) in 1988. The landowners will be given compensation per the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 within the next six months.
This is the first time the State has been obligated to ensure that resettlement and rehabilitation were provided in addition to compensation. The 2013 Act introduces more beneficial provisions for compensation and rehabilitation for persons displaced after compulsory land acquisition.
Land from residents of four villages — Tumulia, Jhupuranga, Ratansara and Kirpsara — were acquired by MCL for coal mining 34 years ago, the Supreme Court said. Villagers were primarily from the tribal community and had not been compensated for their land till now.
The issue dragged out for several decades. “The applicant writ petitioners have waited for roughly half the number of years that this republic has existed,” the Court noted.
The Bench, comprising Chief Justice of India UU Lalit, Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, November 5, 2022, directed that the families be compensated within six months of the order.
A 2006 Odisha High Court order directed the Centre and MCL to determine and disburse compensation payable to landowners under provisions of the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957.
MCL had challenged the order in the apex court on a special leave petition, a discretionary power vested in the Supreme Court.
The SC sought the assistance of the then Solicitor-General of India, Gopal Subramaniam, over the special leave petition. Subramaniam proposed a scheme for the determination of compensation to the landowners, which the Court accepted in its judgment of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, 2010.
A three-member claims commission was set up to determine the rate or the amount of compensation or profits payable to the landholder under the settlement and rehabilitation package.
The commission noted that the acquisition notifications were made way back in 1984, but no compensation was paid. It had added that the date of notice of survey given by the commission September 2010 be taken into account to fix the market value of the lands under acquisition.
Following the recommendations of the Commission, the SC in October 2013 order held that infrastructure for resettlement was to be in terms of Odisha Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, 2006 and the Third Schedule to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2013.
In 2017, the SC disposed of the MCL appeal, directing the disbursement of compensation and other benefits based on the reports prepared by the Claims Commission, reported legal news website Live Law.
In 2020, the Supreme Court directed MCL to share all the status reports and relevant documents available with it digitally with all parties. A chart furnished by the district collector, Sundargarh, indicated that the competent authority had issued no certificate of completion at six sites in different villages, the Court observed in the same order.
Resettlement and rehabilitation work was still at a primary stage for two other sites.
“The provisions of the R&R Act, 2013, which replaced the old Land Acquisition Act, 1894, have for the first time cast obligations upon the state to ensure that resettlement and rehabilitation is provided in addition to compensation,” the Supreme Court noted.
Several applications were filed by MCL and the landowners, seeking a range of directions against the 2013 order. All these applications were heard by the Apex court, disposing of them in the judgment November 5, 2022.
The SC restricted its order to these four villages as the compensation formula for other villages was approved by the Court earlier October 28, 2015, said the Live Law report.
The State and MCL have been directed to develop housing plots. In case any individual landowner is not interested in allotment of the plots, the displaced family would be entitled to a one-time cash settlement of Rs 25 lakh.
If the plots cannot be handed over within two years or are not available, the displaced families will be entitled to the one-time compensation of Rs 25 lakh with interest at 7 per cent per annum for two years.
MCL was directed to provide employment to two members of the displaced families along with other monetary and tangible benefits.
“These rehabilitation and resettlement provisions relate not only to a right to employment for at least one member of the displaced family but also other monetary and tangible benefits, such as land for construction of houses, cash assistance for construction; transportation cost; provision for temporary displacement; annuity and/or cash payment in lieu of employment benefits, etc,” added the Bench.
In case any family does not wish to opt for employment, a one-time compensation of Rs 16 lakhs will be paid by MCL to the concerned family.
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