Is it legal to enter private property and plant K-Rail survey stones? What the law says

Boundary stones laid for SilverLine Project in Thrissur. File Photo

Thiruvananthapuram: With laying of survey stones to demarcate land for the Kerala Government’s proposed SilverLine semi-high speed railway project (K-Rail) attracting much resistance from the local people, it would be enlightening to examine what the law says on the matter.

The two laws invoked by the state government for land acquisition are, the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Act of 1961 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.

Under the 2013 law enacted by the Centre, survey for a project can start only after conducting a social impact study, public hearing, a study by an expert committee and a notification mentioning the land to be acquired.

However, according to the Revenue Department of Kerala, the social impact study can be carried out only if the land is demarcated and surveyed. Accordingly, survey stones for K-Rail are being installed under Section 4 of the Survey and Boundaries Act, said Revenue officials.

Main points in Central law of 2013
The Centre’s 2013 law on land acquisition says that a notification has to be issued with the cooperation of the local bodies where the project is proposed in order to conduct the social impact study. The purpose of the study has to be mentioned in the notification, along with its scheduled date.

Protestors remove the survey stones placed by K-Rail officials in Chottanikkara. File Photo: Manorama

Subsequently, the notification in the local language has to be distributed in the areas to be affected by the project. It should also be uploaded on the government website. The social impact study has to be completed in six months, says the law. Representatives of local bodies should be part of the team conducting the study.

The study report has to be made available to the public and should include details such as list of the affected families, those to be relocated, area of land to be acquired, private and government land to be taken over, impact on life of local people, basic facilities in the area and water sources. Report of the study has to be published in the local language also.

A public hearing should follow the study and the response of affected people included in the report. Subsequently, a group of experts, including two social scientists, two local body representatives, two experts in rehabilitation and a technical expert has to examine the social impact study report.

The decision of the expert committee should be conveyed to the government; whether the project is feasible or not. Moreover, it has to be published in regional language and on the government website.

Next, the government should take a decision, which has to be published and copies distributed in the affected areas. Later, a notification has to be issued mentioning the areas identified for the project.

According to Section 12 of the law, government officials have the right to visit the areas to implement the project. They can also dig pits to carry out a survey. Boundaries too could be marked. All these activities have to be done in the presence of the land owner. A notice has to be issued seeking permission from the owners to enter their house premises or farmland seven days in advance.

Land acquisition can start only after completing the survey, addressing the grievances of the people and payment of compensation.

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