Eviction drive and its consequential effects
The recent eviction drive carried out in Assam has created immense controversy, and it is identified as being arbitrary, violative of the principle of natural justice, partial, targeting a particular community, etc., as such.
The recent eviction drive carried out in Assam has created immense controversy, and it is identified as being arbitrary, violative of the principle of natural justice, partial, targeting a particular community, etc., as such. The issue of encroachment has been a long-standing problem in Assam, and the state government's efforts to clear the encroachments have frequently faced resistance from various groups, including political parties and civil society organisations.
Assam government usually follows a summary eviction procedure as per Rule 18 of the Settlement Rules, which is made under the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886. As per this rule, the District Commissioner can summarily evict a person who encroaches upon land reserved for public purposes by issuing a notice giving the illegal encroachers 15 days notice, and this procedure is normally seen in practical appliances.
Whereas, Sections 3 and 4 of the Assam Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2010 state that land grabbing in any form is unlawful, and any act connected with or arising out of land grabbing belonging to the government, state government undertaking, local authority, religious or charitable institution or endowment, including a wakf or other private person, shall be a cognizable offence under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and punishable under this Act, for which necessary action can be contemplated before the Special Tribunal constituted for the same. However, this procedure is lengthy, and the government has to file a suit first against the person who encroached on the government land, and then the other side gets the right of hearing to establish his case in accordance with the law. The government normally refrains from following the special legislation made for such purposes.
It is well settled that the preservation and protection of government land and land reserved for specific purposes, more particularly for VGRs and PGRs, wet land, and land under the Tribal Belt and Block, is one of the major responsibilities of the officials of the Revenue and DM Department of the Government of Assam. The Assam Land Records Manual distinctly provides the procedure to keep records of government land and the system to be applied for encroachment purposes as well.
It is relevant to state here that the Hon’ble Supreme Court, vide its Judgement in Civil Appeal No. 1132/2011 at SLP (C) No. 3109/2011 (Jagpal Singh vs. The State of Punjab & Others), ordered that all state governments should prepare schemes for the eviction of illegal, unauthorised occupants on village common lands, and these must be restored to Gramme Sabha or GP for the common use of the village. But it is also quite evident that, as of date, the government has no concrete eviction policy for this crucial issue, and the drive, whenever initiated, has always created great controversy in the public domain too.
There are various schemes, i.e., "the Chief Minister's Special Scheme for Rehabilitation of Erosion-Affected Families in Assam," in order to rehabilitate homeless and landless people living on embankments or roadsides, educational institutions, religious organisations, char or forest lands, government khas lands, VGRs, PGRs, etc.; ii) the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition; iii) the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013; and iv) the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, etc., in existence, but to cope with the problem of affected people from sudden eviction drives from government’s land, the present government has no adequate schemes in hand. This apart, the attempt to initiate a short-notice eviction drive immensely creates a big problem for the affected person to shift their accommodation facility to a new place in this short span of time.
The government also seems to have failed to formulate massively detailed schemes with regard to the eviction drive, and the pick-and-choose policy for this purpose always puts the government in question.
The inhuman approach as of date being carried out in the name of an eviction drive by government agencies is totally against the rule of law and also against the various rights guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights as well as the protection given under the Directive Principle of State Policy of the Constitution of India. The said drive always invites unruly situations in society, and these things are constantly happening because of the lack of proper policy in the government’s hands.
Therefore, it is invariably required that the government have a specific policy or scheme in advance indicating the detail information in the public platform about their proposed action of eviction drive: date, time, place, list of persons who occupied such land, their status as landless persons, details of notices issued to such persons prior to eviction, list of persons having the right to get their rehabilitation packages in an alternative land facility, etc. For these purposes, in each district, a particular cell has to be constituted to deal with all such issues under the "Single Window System’. Further, the entire compiled information also needs to be uploaded to the website of the Revenue Department so that everyone can visit the same and get the valuable information for the same at one click; otherwise, the present modus would become a great threat for the government as well as to the eviction-affected person for all time.