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Posted at: Jun 24, 2015, 1:29 AM; last updated: Jun 24, 2015, 12:55 AM (IST)

Deposing before JPC, law students back land Bill

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 23

When Aditya Manubarwala and Shardool Kulkarni, two law students from Mumbai, set out to depose before the joint committee of Parliament reviewing the land Bill, they didn’t know they would end up being the youngest ever to depose before any parliamentary panel in the history of the Independent India.

“We were told we were the youngest to depose before any parliamentary committee in the Independent India; the youngest before us was a 28 year old,” Aditya told The Tribune today.

What made their deposition significant was the fact that in the atmosphere of opposition to the land Bill, they came out to back its substantive amendments – non requirement of consent and social impact assessment for a defined set of land acquisitions and scrapping of the 2013 provision which said land, if undeveloped until five years, would be returned to the original owner.

Their resistance was to Chapter III of the Bill which creates five categories of exceptions to the general law to be followed in cases of acquisition of multi crop land. “These exceptions must go,” they told the panel.

LLB students at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai, Aditya and Shardool said they prepared their deposition for a month to be sure of their arguments as future lawyers. The duo also said the opposition to the Bill was mere politics and its merits were being ignored.

“In 2013 when the UPA brought the land bill, I argued against it in my blog. I cited evidence to back my case, including a report that said projects worth Rs 20 lakh crore were pending in India for want of consent of land owners. Exceptions made to the consent and social impact assessment clauses for a certain set of acquisitions in the new law were necessary for development,” said Aditya (19).

On the removal of five-year return clause which was part of the 2013 Bill, the students in their submission to the JPC said, “The Bill makes it clear that the government will stipulate the time limit for project completions. Prescription would be made based on studies that consider the nature of projects at hand. Capital intensive projects like nuke plants will take much longer, so will projects coming up at locations where allied infrastructure is missing. Case to case, time limits will vary. That’s what the Bill says.”

Asked if they believed the Bill was pro-corporate and anti-farmer, the duo said any Bill could be misused if the government’s intentions are bad. “The fact that 70 pc India is farmers will prevent any government from being ill intentioned. We find the new Bill well intentioned and opposition to it misplaced. Why would any government hurt farmers who form 70 per cent of India?” they said.

The Congress-led Opposition has been resisting the new land Bill.

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