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Report No. 10

2. History of the Legislation in India (a) Acquisition.-

The first piece of legislation in India in respect of acquisition of property was the Bengal Regulation I of 1824. It applied "throughout the whole of the provinces immediately subject to the Presidency of Fort William." It provided rules for enabling the officers of Government to obtain, at a fair valuation, land or other immovable property required for roads, canals or other public purposes. By Act I of 1850, some of the provisions of this Regulation were extended to the town of Calcutta with the object of "confirming the title to lands in Calcutta taken for public purposes". In the middle of the nineteenth century, when the railways were being developed, it was felt that legislation was needed for acquiring lands for them. Act XLII of 1850 declared that Railways were public works within the meaning of the Regulation and thus enabled the provisions of Regulation I of 1824 to be used for acquiring lands for the construction of Railways.

3. In Bombay, the Building Act XXVIII of 1839 was the first piece of legislation whereby the machinery for acquisition of land "for the purposes of widening or altering any existing public road, street, or other thoroughfare or drain or for making any new public road, street or other thoroughfare within the islands of Bombay and Colaba" was provided. This Act was extended by Act XVII of 1850 to taking lands for railway purposes within the Presidency.

4. In Madras Act, XX of 1852 was passed for the purpose of facilitating the acquisition of land for public purposes in the Presidency of Fort St. George. The Act of 1852 adopted, with modification, the first seven sections of the Bengal Regulation I of 1824. Act XLII of 1850 was at the same time extended to the Presidency. Both these Acts were extended by Act I of 1854 to the town of Madras.

5. The first enactment on this subject for the whole of British India was Act VI of 1857. It repealed all previous enactments relating to acquisition and its object, as stated in its Preamble, was to make better provision for the acquisition of land needed for public purposes within the territories in the possession and under the governance of the East India Company and for the determination of the amount of compensation to be paid for the same. Under this Act, the Collector was empowered to fix the amount of compensation by agreement, if possible; but if there was no such agreement, the dispute had to be referred to arbitrators whose decision was to be final and could not be impeached, except on the grounds of corruption or misconduct of the arbitrators.

This Act was emended by Acts II of 1861 and XXII of 1863. A few years' experience of the working of the Act revealed that the method of settlement of compensation by arbitration was unsatisfactory as the arbitrators were found to be incompetent and sometimes, even corrupt. There was no machinery provided to get their decision revised as there was no appeal provided under the Act against the award of the arbitrators. The legislature had to intervene and Act X of 1870 was passed. This Act, for the first time, provided for a reference to a civil court for the determination of the amount of compensation when the Collector could not settle it by agreement.

It laid down a detailed procedure for the acquisition of land and also provided definite rules for the determination of compensation. In 1885, a separate Act (XVIII of 1885) was passed with the object of making provision for the grant of compensation to the owners of mines situated under the land sought to be acquired by the Government, where such mines were not required by the Government but the owners were prevented from working them. This measure, though styled Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, had, in fact, nothing to do with acquisition. It was purely a law of compensation.

6. The Act of 1870 was found to be defective in various respects and eventually the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (Act I of 1894) was passed. This Act was later amended by Acts IV and X of 1914, XVII of 1919, XXXVIII of 1920, XIX of 1921, XXXVIII of 1923, XVI of 1933 and I of 1938. It may be noticed here that the amending Act of 1923 introduced, for the first time, an important change, in that it gave an opportunity to the persons interested in the lands proposed to be acquired to state their objections to the acquisition and to be heard by the authority concerned in support of their objections.

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