The English Law as a basis of our legal system puts a great premium on the dispensation of justice in a transparent, just and equitable manner with a right of appeal to the aggrieved person and to raise objections if any. The Land Acquisition Act 1894 and the Rules made thereunder provide a rational basis to acquire the property of an individual for public welfare purposes and for companies. Here it will be appropriate to explain the relationship between the Law and the rules framed thereunder. Acts/Laws set out standards, procedures and principles that must be followed. Rules provide the guidelines to implement the law in letter and spirit. Rules framed within the parameters provided by the Law are binding, violation of which vitiates the whole proceedings.

2. In cases of acquisition of land for public purposes the first step is the issuance of a Notification under Section 4 of the Act. This notification indicates the desire of District Collector that a land situated in particular locality is needed for any public purpose or for a company and enables him to depute revenue staff to enter upon the land, survey its location and do all other acts necessary to ascertain whether the land is suitable for the purpose, it is being acquired.

3. Next step in sequence is the notification under Sec 5 which indicates that the provincial government is satisfied that a particular land is needed for public purpose or a company as the case may be. Subsequently, government intention to acquire the land in question will be published in the official gazette, stating the necessary details as to the location, purpose of land acquisition and approximate area required and shall cause public notice to be given to this effect.

4. Of primary importance in the Acquisition Act ibid is Sec 5(A) which read with Rule 9 of the Land Acquisition Act Rules 1983 gives full powers to the aggrieved party to challenge the acquisition proceedings within thirty days after issuance of the notification under Section 5 ibid. Under this section the District Collector is bound to forward to the Divisional Commissioner the objections raised by the person (s) concerned and record his own opinion on a) genuineness of the public purpose involved and b) the minimum requirement of the land for the project in hand, keeping in view its alternate uses and of course due market price for the same. The Commissioner is bound by the law to consider the objections made by the aggrieved person along with the recommendations of the Collector and pass a speaking order in the case within three months. If the report of the Collector is not forwarded to the Commissioner or the decision of the Commissioner is not announced within a period of three months provided under the Act ibid read with rule 9 of the Land Acquisition Rules, the objections raised by the affected party shall be deemed to have been carried and the Acquisition proceedings shall come to an end. These are mandatory rights conferred upon a person or the party whose land is being acquired and under no circumstances should be denied by the staff doing acquisition proceedings. In fact, this provision has been specifically provided in the Act and Rules to protect people from high-handedness of Land Acquisition staff.

5. Ironically, these rights are conveniently subverted by the revenue officers by frequently making a re-course to the emergency provisions Under 17(4) of the Act which authorize the Commissioner to declare that the provisions of Section 5 & 5(A) shall not be applicable in a particular case. It is important to note that emergency provisions in the law have been provided only to deal with extraordinary situations where public interest is of paramount importance and acquisition of land cannot brook any delay. Quite contrary to it, the revenue staff, in order to please their political bosses indiscriminately and unjustifiably invoke these provisions of law and take away the right from the aggrieved party to challenge the acquisition proceedings. This is a flagrant violation of the spirit of law as these provisions cannot be invoked in an inept and casual manner. The law states very clearly the circumstances and grounds on which such provisions can be invoked. Application of emergency provisions in acquisition cases without any regard to the due process of law renders the whole proceedings irregular and void. Even the superior courts have taken notice of this anomaly and have warned the revenue staff time and again to desist from this apparent abuse of law. But incidentally, there is little evidence to suggest that these warnings have been heeded to and due legal course adopted.

6. The acquisition process is also out on a limb in another way, causing a huge loss to the government exchequer. As it happens, the acquisition staff pays up front the due price, as assessed, to the person whose land has been acquired without making him to go through the long formalities to get the compensation. As a quid pro quo, he is made to give a Power of Attorney about the same land to a nominee of the acquisition staff. Afterwards, by removing the seller from the scene, the holder of Power of Attorney makes exaggerated claims to the government treasury on account of buildings on land, tube wells, water courses, precious trees etc. and thus ends up getting much high price than the one which was paid to the seller. The extra claim made fraudulently is misappropriated by the acquisition staff. This is how billions of rupees are embezzled every year on innumerable sites where acquisition proceedings are under way. One way to discourage it is to duly publicise the final award of compensation and paste it at a conspicuous place of the village concerned. This information should also be incorporated in the Daily Dairy of the village Patwari for public inspection. It would bring out any discrepancy between the price paid and compensation made from the government treasury.

7. Upshot of what has been said in the preceding paragraphs, is that the acquisition proceedings should be undertaken scrupulously in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act 1984 (Act 1 of 1894) and rules framed there under. Handling of such serious cases in a flippant and casual manner without adhering to the due process of law and rules makes the whole process legally untenable. The person whose land is to be acquired has an inherent right to challenge the proceedings on the grounds of jurisdiction, suitability of land for the purpose indicated in the relevant notification, the extent of its requirement and market price of land etc. Sections 5 and 5(A) of the Act ibid give him the right to be heard personally or through a pleader and his objections disposed of equitably within a given time frame. Emergency provisions should be invoked under exceptional circumstances and that too on very solid grounds. The final compensation awards should be duly publicised to have a check on the indiscretions of the land acquisition staff.