Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act: HC suggests state to consider amendments

Hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act and the rules framed under the Act on Thursday, the Gujarat High Court suggested that the state government “consider” some provisions of the Act for amendments.

Addressing Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, the court listed some of the provisions that the state counsel may consider providing for a provision for the accused to appeal against the charges under the Act, amending the provision that brings private land under the purview of the Act and also considering permitting regularisation of unauthorised occupation keeping the interests of marginalised groups in mind.

Nearly 100 petitions challenging the law are before a division bench headed by Chief Justice Aravind Kumar. Arguments are continuing with further hearing scheduled for November 29. Listing the three aspects, Chief Justice Kumar said, “One is providing for appeal. Another one is private land (that is considered within the purview of the Act). Three, in respect of those applications which have been filed by a person belonging to Scheduled Tribe or forest dweller under the Forest Dwellers Act (Forest Rights Act)…”

The bench justified that the suggestions are to ensure that the law is not misused to “settle scores” where even before a court takes cognisance, the state-appointed committee registers an FIR and puts the accused in jail, resulting in “trauma” for the individual.

Advocate Virat Popat, representing one of the petitioners, pointed to the court that the Gujarat government, through a gazette notification dated November 23, brought in amendments to the rules under the Act, following which Rule 5 (8) makes a provision that the state-appointed committee shall consider the inquiry report and reject the application complaining of land-grabbing, which is devoid of merit, and direct police to file an FIR only in the event of a prima facie case. The earlier rule 5 (8) laid down that the committee “shall consider the inquiry report and decide further course of action including filing of FIR within 21 days”. Advocate Popat pointed out that despite the amendment, if the committee directs an FIR, the aggrieved person remains without a forum for statutory appeal.

Senior advocate SN Shelat, representing another petitioner, added that non-availability of a corrective measure in an enactment can be held to be arbitrary and if there is no mechanism provided for the aggrieved party to pursue his grievance in a higher forum, then such enactment will have to be necessarily held as arbitrary.

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