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Land Bill to now come in Winter Session

The controversial Land Acquisition Bill will now be brought in the Winter Session of Parliament after Bihar polls with opposition digging its heels on certain key provisions and the ruling side wanting to avoid a vote in the joint panel examining the contentious measure.

The decision to seek further extension till the Winter session came after a sharp exchange of words between BJP and Congress members in the panel meeting today as the latter was opposed to any changes in the retrospective clause of the bill dealing with compensation of land acquired under the earlier 1894 Act, which was replaced by the 2013 law passed by the UPA government.

As members from Congress, TMC and BJD demanded a vote, panel chairman SS Ahluwalia said the committee should submit a unanimous report and gave in to the demands by Congress and TMC members for more time to study certain clauses threadbare.

The committee was earlier given a fresh extension till tomorrow to submit its report. Following demand by Congress and TMC for more time, Ahluwalia decided to seek yet another extension from Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan as he wanted to submit a consensus report.

While BJP has 11 members in the panel, its ally LJP, TDP and Shiv Sena have one member each.

In the Opposition while Congress has five members, TMC has two, BJD, CPI-M, JD-U, TRS, NCP, SP and BSP have one member each.

The motion seeking time till the last day of the first week of Winter session has been listed in tomorrow’s agenda paper of Lok Sabha. Winter session usually begins in the third week of November and ends in the third week of December.

This means that bill will come to Parliament only after assembly elections are over in Bihar, where BJP is trying hard to replace the incumbent Nitish Kumar government. Congress is using the NDA bill to paint the government as “anti-farmer”.

Today’s meeting was expected to evolve consensus on three key provisions including the one on return of unutilised land to its owners after five years and the retrospective clause.

However, only the retrospective clause was taken up briefly during which the Congress members vociferiously opposed any change in provision 24 (2) of the UPA Act, which has been diluted in the NDA bill.

Sources in the panel said former Rural Development Minister and Congress member on the committee Jairam Ramesh walked out in a huff when told that his party was engaging in “delaying tactics”.

However, Ahluwalia is learnt to have later persuaded Ramesh to return to the meeting.

The UPA law stated the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply where an award has already been made. However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 and physical possession of land had not been taken or compensation not paid, the UPA law will apply. PTI