The Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) has rapped arbitrary use of emergency provisions under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, to acquire 7,025 acres of private land in Odisha for 20 companies between 1995 and 2008.
The industries that benefited includes Jindal Steel & Power, Aditya Aluminium, Sterlite Energy, Jindal Stainless, Monnet Power, Rungta Mines and Vedanta Aluminium (now Sesa Sterlite).
The land was acquired at a cost of Rs 206 crore, when the current market valuation was Rs 738 crore. The emergency provisions were misused during the reign of both the Congress (1995-2000) and the incumbent Biju Janata Dal, in power since 2000.
Under Section 5 of the Act, land can be acquired under emergency grounds, provided the purpose for such acquisition is achieved within six months from the date of notification. Funds available for public purposes would lapse if not spent within the prescribed timeline.
The central auditor, however, observed that in the case of these 20 companies, none of the emergency grounds were fulfilled. The audit scrutiny was in respect of 92 of 225 test-checked cases. In all the 92 cases, the state's land acquisition agency, Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation, recommended application of emergency provisions by citing a generic reason that the projects would be executed on a priority basis.
It noted the land owners were deprived of the rights to contest the acquisition and protect their property, due to inappropriate application of the emergency provision.