SC rejects pleas challenging 2019 Tamil Nadu land acquisition laws

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New Delhi, Jun 29 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a batch of pleas challenging the constitutionality of the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act 2019, holding it to be a “legitimate legislative exercise”.

The apex court noted that the 2019 Act was applied retrospectively from September 26, 2013 with the objective to validate all pending acquisitions on and after that date under the state enactments, otherwise quashed by the Madras High Court.

The petitioners before the apex court had claimed that the legislative tool adopted by state legislature to revive “unconstitutional enactments” was a direct attempt to overrule and nullify the high court’s July 2019 verdict, which had quashed all pending acquisition proceedings under three enactments on or after September 27, 2013, and the same was impermissible in constitutional scheme as it violates the doctrine of separation of powers.

The apex court noted in its verdict that three Acts were earlier challenged before the high court which had found that the state enactments became repugnant to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and thus void, on September 27, 2013 when the law received assent of the President.

“The petitioners have advanced lengthy arguments as to how the 2019 Act is repugnant to the 2013 Act. We are constrained to observe that the whole exercise of pointing out any repugnancy after a validating Act has obtained the assent of the President is otiose,” said a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari.

The bench noted that effect of the 2019 Act is to change the law retrospectively and not to overrule the judgment of the high court.

“In light of the aforesaid discussion, we hold the 2019 Act to be a legitimate legislative exercise and find it to be consistent with and within the four corners of Article 254 of the Constitution of India and also of the high court judgment. Thus, we dismiss the present batch of writ petitions,” the bench said in its 60-page verdict.

The apex court also dealt with the issues, including whether the state legislature had the legislative competence to enact the 2019 Act.

“The constitutional scheme and decisions of this court on the subject untangle a settled position that the power of a legislature to legislate retrospectively is within the constitutional bounds,” it said.

“It emanates from the basic principle that a legislature is deemed to be the main protagonist of the public interest at large. For, the legislature is the bulwark of a democratic polity. It is also beyond debate that a legislature can validate an invalidated law by removing the cause for such invalidity through a legislative exercise,” it said.

It said the Indian Constitution ordains a structure of governance wherein the three organs of the State are entrusted with independent functions.

“Thus, we the people of India have embraced a system of separation of powers for securing checks and balances. Consequently, in day-­to-­day functioning of the government institutions many a times a perception emerges about the ‘overstepping’ between three organs,” it noted, adding that similar grievance has been made in the case.

It said that resource in the form of land is an essential requirement for the development of a nation.

“At the same time, property rights of individuals have always had an important status in the hierarchy of rights,” it said. PTI ABA MNL SJK SA

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