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Acquisition of land under the Indian Railways Act 1989

The following research paper talks about the Indian Railways Act 1989 and its various provisions related to the acquisition of land by the government. It further substantiates a thorough analysis of provisions mentioned under section 20-A to section 20-O. In conclusion, a detailed interpretation of Rameshbhai Gangubhai v Union of India is submitted concerning section 20D and E of the Railways Act 1989.

Railways, since the British rule in India, have been an important source of transportation. the first-ever train for carrying passengers ran from Bori Bunder to Thane on the 16th of April 1853.
Since then, the usage of railways has never seen a downward slope and has only increased. the first-ever proposal for the formation of Railways was made in 1832 in Madras. If we go by the surveys, then daily, around 23 Million people travel through railways.

Indian Railways are operated by the Ministry of Railways and hold 4th position in the largest railways networks in the world. being one of the largest railway networks in the world, it is apparent that it gives employment to a large number of people. More than 1.54 million people are employed under the railways. The Railway Board heads the Rail network in India. It is a seven-member body that is answerable to the Ministry of Railways. Indian Railways are divided into a total of 18 zones headed by their respective general managers.

Land And Railways

Railways, being a form of transport which operates on land, obviously need landmasses to work. India is so densely populated that the construction of railways takes time and money. this situation is even worse in big cities and states in which not even a single piece of land exists with no inhabitation. Under the Railways Act, 1989, all the land acquisition and related aspects are given considerable importance and proper sections are prescribed which give their share in the hassle-free working of the railways and also at the same time give due importance to people who get displaced because of land acquisition for railways development. The Railways Act 1989, is the legislation of the Parliament of India that singlehandedly deals with all the railway transportation-related aspects. It includes provisions related to the construction of railways, railway zones, Railway authorities, the power to acquire land, etc.

Land Acquisition Under Ministry Of Railways

The preamble of the ministry of railway and rural development establishes that the acquisition of land for railways and other infrastructural and developmental projects is compulsory and for the best interest of the nation but at the same time it is important to make sure that the rights of the people living in the vicinity of the area being acquired for such projects are not hindered. For this, proper legislations have been made under the Indian Railways Act 1989 which make sure that the appropriate amount of compensation is provided to the aggrieved people and their rights are not abridged.

Provisions Of The Act
  1. Section 20A:

    this provision solely deals with the power to acquire land. It states that if the government has any forthcoming railway project and wishes to acquire land for that purpose, it shall, by official notification put forth its intentions with a detailed description of the land it wants to acquire and the project for which it wants to acquire the land. It also provides a separate subsection for Union Territories and state governments and makes it imperative for them to provide a detailed description of the land acquisition to competent authorities. Furthermore, such notification shall be published in 2 newspapers one of which has to a newspaper of vernacular language.
  2. Section 20C:

    When construction is carried out on a piece of land and that too for humungous projects, like railways, it is obvious that it might put an obstacle on the lives of people living in the vicinity of that area. Therefore, to make sure that no rights are hindered and no hardship is put in the way of people, proper provisions for spreading awareness to the people regarding the project and for compensation in case of damages are provided by evaluating the damages which can be caused beforehand and such compensation also comes with a time limit, i.e. of 6 months from the completion of the project.
  3. Section 20D:

    As per the provisions of the previous section, section 20D provides for the procedure which shall be followed in case the interests of people are hindered which making of the project. It substantiates that any such person who has an objection to the acquisition of land for a railway project, provided, he holds an interest in it, shall before the expiration of 30 days from the date of such publication object to such acquisition by writing to the competent authority about the issue and he shall be given all the rights to be heard. Thereafter, the authority shall allow or disallow such acquisition upon taking all the factors under consideration and this decision shall be binding. This section shall be applied only if there is an objection in public concerning such acquisition.
  4. Section 20E:

    This section has nothing to do with the above-mentioned section as it vindicates the procedure to be followed after the notification about the project has been put to the newspapers provided, there shall be no objection to the project or such objection has been declined by the authority. the competent authority, after examining all the aspects shall submit a proper report to the central government after which, the government shall again by notification declare that in the absence of any objection, the land for the said rail project shall be acquired.

  5. Section 20F:

    Once the acquisition has been declared and in case the land rights or any other form of rights of the public are hindered, it is the responsibility of the railway authority to finalize such amount which shall be given as compensation. the competent authority shall under the provisions of this section, formulate an award, and from the date of publication, the duration within which this award shall be formulated is 1 year.

    In case such circumstances arise under which the award could not be formulated then the entire land acquisition proceedings shall lapse but if the authorities feel that such delay was caused because of unavoidable circumstances then it has the power to extend the duration of award formation by 6 months. the legislators of the Railways Act have made sure that no right is hindered.

    Therefore, it provides a special provision for the people entitled to compensation, and for the extended duration, an extra amount as compensation shall be provided for every preceding month at a rate of 5% or more. There might also be such situations under which the land being acquired by the railways might have people enjoying the benefits of the land in the form of easement rights before the proposal for the acquisition of land was made. In such cases, the people enjoying such easement rights shall be paid compensation.

    This amount of compensation is calculated at 10% of the amount decided under sub-section 1. Another thing to be noted is that before the amount of compensation of decided, the competent authority shall tell the people about the distribution of compensation with the help of 2 newspapers, one of which shall be in vernacular language so that the people entitled to hold an interest in the area can approach the authority stating such interest with proper documents to support such interest. People holding an interest in the property can approach the competent authority either by themselves or through a legal representative.

    Every arbitration under the provisions of this act shall be governed by the arbitration and conciliation act, 1996. An example of this can be related to the amount of compensation. If any of the parties are of the view that the amount offered to be paid as compensation is not appropriate and less than what should be paid, then the central government shall appoint an arbitrator.

    Factors to be considered before deciding the compensation amount:
    1. The market value of the land. this value should be calculated at the date the notification is made by the authorities showing their interest in the said property.
    2. The damages that a person who holds an interest in the property had to suffer at the time of such possession.
    3. Such damages that a person suffers whose other immovable property is injuriously being affected because of such acquisition.
    4. The damages in case a person had to change his residence or place of stay because of such acquisition of land for railways.
  6. Section 20G:

    is an explanatory section for one of the provisions of section 20F i.e. of the market price of the property. This section substantiates the criterion which has to be followed to determine the market price of the property.
    1. The first criterion is that of minimum land value in terms of registration of sale deeds in the area in which the property is situated under the Indian stamp act, 1899.
    2. The registered sale deed for similar land.
    3. The competent authority shall specify the floor price per unit area.
  7. Section 20H:

    once the amount has been determined under section 20G of the Railways Act, the central government shall deposit the said amount to the competent authority for further payment on behalf of the central government. In case of any dispute arising in the course of apportionment of the amount, the case shall be passed on to the Principal civil court of original jurisdiction. If the amount determined by the competent authority and arbitrator is more than each other, then per annum interest rate shall be awarded on such excess.
  8. Section 20-I:

    As soon as all the procedures mentioned under the previous sections have been fulfilled and the land has been acquired by the government by taking possession of the land and giving away the compensation money to the interested people, the government has all the rights to ask the owners or any other people who were enjoying the land before compensation was provided to them to vacate the land as they would then have no right over the said property within 60 days. Clause 2 of this section answers a very important question that might arise, i.e. if any person refuses to vacate the land even after being awarded compensation, in such circumstances, if the land or property is situated in a metropolitan area then the case shall go to the commissioner of police and if the land or property falls under any area other than metropolitan, then the case shall go to the district collector.
  9. Section 20N:

    This section clears the air by very precisely mentioning that the acquisition of land act 1894 shall not apply to any provision of this act. This makes it independent of other legislations.
    10. Section 20-0: The government had legislated the National rehabilitation and resettlement policy in 2007. This section states that the provisions of this policy shall govern the affected people.

Nareshbhai Gnagubhai v/s Union of India

On 08 Feb 2011, the Government decided to issue a notice under section 20A of the Railways act 1989 stating that it has the intentions to acquire the land which was spread at a stretch of 131km, out of which about 6 km of land was owned by appellants and the notification was specified in 18 villages. These villages were situated in Surat, Gujarat.

The land had to be acquired to construct a freight corridor (western directed). Between 6 to 7 April 2011, as per the provisions of section 20D, the appellants wrote a written objection to the competent authorities which was the special land acquisition office in Surat. The decision of the authorities was not in favor of the appellants and it stated under an official letter on 15 July 2011 that the government was acquiring land for public purpose and welfare.

Consequently, it also substantiated that the rights of the appellants will not be hindered and compensation shall be provided to all the people holding an interest in the property as stipulated under section 20F and 20G of the Railways act 1989. Finally, a personal hearing was fixed dated 30 July 2011, and all the appellants were ordered to be present in the court for further hearings with proper documents to support their claims.

On 31 July 2011, the appellants further submitted their objections and finally, a report was submitted by the authorities to the central government on 3 January 2012 following the provisions of section 20E. despite so many proceedings and objections which were a total of 59 as states by the authorities, the objections were denied.

The case however did not come to an end after this, on 13 August 2013, a landowner named Shri Ghanshyamsinh Vashi filed a right to information application asking for an attested copy of the order passed on objections filed by appellants. The reply to the RTI was given by the competent authority on the 5th of September 2013. Under this reply, the competent authorities denoted that it had already given a lawfully abiding reply to the previous objection appeal filed by the appellants after which the applicant further filed a special civil application before the Gujarat High Court. the applications numbers are as follows: 19409 (2015), 12711 (2016, 14000 (2016), and 14001 2016).

The main agenda behind filing the application was that the appellants were of the view that no such order had been passed on the objections raised by them and therefore, requested the court to quash the notification and declaration issued.
the High Court passed an interim order and asked the respondents i.e. the authority of railways to provide intricate details of the procedure followed and the documents stating that the objections were disposed of under whatever circumstances.

On behalf of the railway authorities, the Chief project manager of the freight corporation corridor of India that I state that the clarification/reply given vide letter dated 15/7/2011 does not indicate the decision/order/predetermination of the Competent Authority. The Competent Authority has merely clarified the purpose of acquisition and provision of Railway Amendment Act 2008 to be considered while awarding compensation.

On the contrary, in the said letter dated 15/7/2011, the Competent Authority has informed the objector to remain present with all the relevant documents on a date that was to be intimated later. I state that the Competent Authority, after hearing all the objectors of land under acquisition, has passed two orders dated 28//11/2011 and 3/1/2012 disallowing all the objections raised by the objectors in the public interest. Annexed hereto and marked as Annexure VI Colly. Are the copies of the orders dated 28/11/2011 as well as 3/1/2012

The court states that section 20D of the Railways Act 1989 denotes that all the people holding an interest in the land which the government is intending to acquire, has all the rights to raise objections against such intentions and shall be heard by the competent authorities. It is only after all the matters are thoroughly discussed and the objections are either allowed or disallowed by the competent authority that the government can acquire the land and carry out with the work intended to be done on such acquired land. If under any circumstances, the competent authority is not disallowing or allowing the objections and giving a declaration then the project for which the land is to be acquired shall not be initiated as per the provision of section 20E.

The Indian Railways Act, therefore, makes sure that while the government is intending to acquire the land for public welfare or developmental purposes it shall also keep in mind and foresee the hardships that it might cause to the people living in the vicinity of the area which the government is eyeing.

Therefore, there was a need for special provisions so that every person who holds an interest in the property gets the right to object against such acquisition of land by the government, and most importantly, the government is obligated to give weight age to such objection and after thorough contemplation and researches decide whether the objections shall be allowed or disallowed. Furthermore, these provisions also substantiate that India is a democratic country, and the right to freedom of expression is one of its fundamental rights which cannot be abridged.

  •,,, Bare Act of Indian Railways Act 1989

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ashna Sharma, Course- BA LLB(H), Semester- 08 - Institution- Amity Law School Noida
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: MR33437917880-27-0221

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