Construction of national highways and acquisition of land for that purpose is an important GoI project. The state always has the power to compulsorily acquire any person’s property for public purpose but in lieu of fair compensation. Fair compensation is a constitutional right. However, now, under a recent Supreme Court judgment in Project Director, NHAI vs M Hakeem, GoI can acquire land for highways without a fair mechanism for compensation. SC has always taken pride in laying down the law for upholding constitutional rights. But it has failed this time.
Why is govt arbitration one-sided?
Under the National Highways Act, 1956 (amended 1997), when GoI acquires land for highways, compensation is fixed by a government servant. A dissatisfied landowner can seek reconsideration but even reconsideration is done by another government servant called an ‘arbitrator’ who is appointed not with the landowner’s consent but unilaterally by GoI.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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