Sunday, December 10, 2006

Singur Row & Fundamental right to property

The Singur row is interesting not just because of the strange set of bedfellows it is producing ( Tatas, Sitaram Yechury & Co on one side ranged against Medha Patkar, Rajnath Singh & the BJP, Arundathi Roy, Mamta Didi et al ) but because of where this whole ability of government to usurp property comes from.

It started with the First amendment to the Constitution in 1951 which inserted article 31A. This article allowed government to take over any estate/property by passing laws. The underlying idea for this was to introduce the Land Ceiling acts. Better still was the article 31B, which created the ninth schedule and stated that acts placed in that Schedule(i.e the Land Ceiling acts) would not be open for judicial review.

All would have been hunky dory, only the courts intervened on the ground of inadequacy of compensation. So various amendments were tried till in 44th Amendment, the right to property was altogether dropped. Instead you got Article 300A which stated that persons are not to be deprived of property save by authority of law. This article does not mention that such deprivation can only occur for public purpose or that compensation should be paid.

So what started as attempt to take away from the rich and give to poor has come a full circle. What is the way out of the mess ? Bring back fundamental right to property. Let people decide if they would rather sell their land or continue using it as they deem fit.

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