Reform vital to cut litigation in India land deals - analysts

by Rina Chandran | @rinachandran | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 2 March 2017 18:59 GMT

A farmer removes weeds from his wheat field in Upleta town in the western state of Gujarat, India, in this 2016 archive photo. REUTERS/Amit Dave

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"The process of land acquisition in India has been the source of increasing political and legal contestation"

By Rina Chandran

NEW DELHI, March 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reforms to the system, greater transparency and better practice are needed to check lengthy litigation as rising demand for land in India triggers greater conflict, analysts said on Thursday.

As land is sought for industrial and development projects, more acquisitions are being contested in court, according to a report from India's Centre for Policy Research think tank.

Nearly two-thirds of litigation before the Supreme Court from 1950-2016 sought more compensation, according to an analysis of 1,269 cases by its Land Rights Initiative.

"The process of land acquisition in India has been the source of increasing political and legal contestation for almost 200 years," Namita Wahi, director of the Land Rights Initiative, said at the report's release on Thursday.

"This stems from the inherently coercive nature of the process, which creates a severe imbalance in power between the state and land losers."

India has introduced several land laws in the past decade to protect farmers and indigenous people. But the complex web of legislation has not always helped the vulnerable.

Conflicts related to land and resources have stalled hundreds of industrial and development projects, affected millions of people and put billions of dollars of investment at risk in India, according to a recent report.

India's Land Acquisition Act of 2013 replaced a colonial-era law, providing higher compensation as well as resettlement.

But states say the law slows land acquisition for projects. Several states - including Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan - have passed amendments to make it easier to acquire land.

Inaccurate land records, undervaluation of sale deeds and the absence of land markets in rural areas have led to lower compensations and more litigation, the report showed.

"Legal reform is a necessary but not a sufficient precondition for ensuring greater equity and efficiency of the land acquisition process," Wahi said.

Alongside administrative reforms, "there is an even greater need for compliance with the rule of law", she said.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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