The Madras High Court has declared as "illegal" an amendment made by the Tamil Nadu government to the Centre's Land Acquisition Act, exempting three state legislations from its purview.
It also made it clear that all land acquisitions made by the state government under the three state legislations on or after September 27, 2013, were "illegal."
A division bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, which set aside the amendment on Wednesday, however, held that the lands, which had been acquired and already put to use for the purpose for which they had been acquired before September 2013, should not be disturbed.
The three legislations providing for the acquisition of land by the state government are Tamil Nadu Acquisition of Land for Harijan Welfare Scheme Act, 1978, Tamil Nadu Acquisition for Land for Industrial Purposes Act, 1997 and Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001.
The matter relates to the amendment made to the Centre's Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 by inserting a new section, 105 A.
The central act was brought out to ensure more transparency in the process of land acquisition and that the land-losers were suitably resettled.
It was introduced to make sure only those acquisitions which were truly necessary took place and that land was not indiscriminately taken over by governments.
During the hearing, the Advocate General of the state government brought to the notice of the bench that large extent of lands that have been acquired under the three state enactments after January 1, 2014, have been put to use and it would be impossible to return them.
To this the bench said, "In such cases, we can only direct that the compensation and the rehabilitation must be strictly made in accordance with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 the New Land Acquisition Act."
For the purpose of continuing the acquisition under three state Acts, it was decided to bring in an amendment by inserting Section 105-A in the Centre's Land Acquisition Act, 2013 in the same manner as envisaged under Section 105 of the Act, whereby the new Act was not made applicable to 13 central enactments.
The amendment brought through the insertion of section 105 A in the central Act by the state was challenged by over 100 writ petitions.
Rejecting the contention of the petitioners that the President had failed to apply his mind while granting assent to Section 105 A, the bench said, "The petitioners had also not demonstrated as to how and why the impugned State Acts were arbitrary in nature and liable to be struck down on the ground of being manifestly arbitrary."
It, however, said that the petitioners succeeded because of Article 254(1), by its operation, rendered the state legislation repugnant and null and void, as on September 27, 2013, the day on which the central Act came into force.
"Hence, the state legislations do not survive. By enacting Sec. 105-A of the New Act, the State could not have revived its three Acts that had become repugnant as on September, 2013," the court said.