Yesterday, Cabinet approved amendments to the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013, which is currently pending in Parliament. In this context, the blog post outlines key features and issues related to the Bill, and certain changes which were approved by Cabinet. What is the current status of the Bill? The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in August 2013. It was then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development, which submitted its report in February 2014. The Bill has not been discussed in Parliament as yet, and is currently pending in Rajya Sabha. As mentioned above, Cabinet approved certain changes to the Bill yesterday. However, a comprehensive list of these changes is not available in the public domain yet. What are the key features of the Bill? The Bill regulates transactions between buyers and promoters (sellers) of residential real estate projects. It establishes state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) in order to do so. Residential real estate projects, with some exceptions, need to be registered with RERAs, and their details must be uploaded on the website of the RERA. This implies that promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them with RERAs. Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs. The Bill also establishes state level appellate tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals. Decisions of RERAs can be challenged before these tribunals. The Bill outlines the duties of promoters, buyers, and real estate agents. For example, the Bill requires that promoters keep 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project, in a separate bank account. This amount must only be used for construction of that project. The state government can alter this amount to less than 70%. The Bill also provides for penalties for the breach of certain provisions of the Bill. What are some of the issues to consider? A few key issues to consider in the Bill are related to the following: (i) certain states have already enacted laws to regulate real estate; (ii) commercial real estate has not been included within the ambit of the Bill; (iii) certain smaller sized projects have not been covered under the Bill; and (iv) 70% of the amount collected from buyers must be kept in an escrow account. Firstly, at present, certain states, such as West Bengal and Maharashtra, have already enacted laws to regulate real estate. So, any central law on real estate that is subsequently enacted will override provisions of state laws if they are inconsistent with the central law. For example, while this Bill (introduced at the centre) requires that 70% of the amount collected from buyers be kept in a separate account and be used only for construction of that project, the Maharashtra law requires that the entire amount collected from buyers be used only for purposes collected. Secondly, while the Bill seeks to regulate residential real estate, commercial real estate has been excluded from its ambit. The Standing Committee has also pointed out that commercial and industrial real estate should be regulated by the Bill. Thirdly, registration with RERAs is not required for projects that: (i) are less than 1000 square metres, or (ii) entail the construction of less than 12 apartments, or (iii) entail renovation/repair/re-development without re-allotment or marketing of the project. The Standing Committee has pointed out that the exclusion of projects, smaller than 1,000 square meters or 12 apartments, from the purview of RERAs could lead to the exclusion of a number of small housing projects. Instead, it has suggested that only projects that are smaller than 100 square meters or three apartments need not register with the RERA. Finally, the Bill mandates that 70% of the amount collected from buyers of a project be used only for construction of that project. Typically, the project cost of a real estate project includes the cost of land and the cost of construction. In certain cases, the cost of construction could be less than 70% and the cost of land more than 30% of the total amount collected. This implies that part of the funds collected could remain unutilised, necessitating some financing from other sources. Consequently, this could raise the project cost. The Standing Committee made certain other recommendations in relation to the Bill. It suggested that all real estate agents be registered with RERAs; and that a new provision be inserted to allow RERAs to give directions to state governments to establish a single window system for providing clearances for projects. Additionally, a time limit should be specified for state and local authorities to issue completion certificates for projects. What were the changes to the Bill approved by Cabinet yesterday? A comprehensive list of amendments is not in the public domain yet. However, a press release of the government, published by the Press Information Bureau, indicates the following changes have been made: firstly, the application of the Bill has been extended to cover commercial real estate, in addition to residential real estate; and secondly, the amount to be kept in an escrow account has been reduced from 70% of the amount collected from buyers to 50%. For more information, please see the PRS Legislative Brief on the Bill, available here. You can also watch a PRS video on the Bill here.
The Land Acquisition Bill is slated to be taken up for consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha today. The government had circulated an amendment list in the last session of Parliament. In a column in the Financial Express, MR Madhavan discusses the major features of the Land Acquisition Bill and the associated issues that Parliament may need to consider while deliberating on the Bill. Economic growth and job creation require efficient usage of land resources. It is important that a fair and transparent process for purchase and for acquisition of land is followed. For the purchase of land, a key concern is the authenticity of land titles, and the government has drafted a Land Titling Bill for this purpose. In the case of land acquisition, the following questions need to be addressed. What are the end-uses for which public interests will trump private property rights, and justify acquisition of land from a person who is not willing to part with it? What should be the process followed? Since there is no market mechanism of discovery of prices in these cases, how should compensation be computed? Is there a need to address non-land owners who may be displaced by the acquisition process? Does the acquisition process get completed in a reasonable amount of time, and is there finality to the acquisition? In sum, do both sides—the acquirer and the land owner—perceive the process to be fair? The current Bill addresses these questions in the following manner. It defines public purpose to include infrastructure projects (as defined by the finance ministry, with some exclusions); projects related to agriculture, agro-processing and cold storage; industrial corridors, mining activities, national investment and manufacturing zones; government administered or aided educational and research institutions; sports, healthcare, transport and space programmes. It also enables the government to include other infrastructural facilities to this list after tabling a notification in Parliament. The significant difference from the current Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is that land cannot be acquired for use by companies unless they satisfy any of the above end-uses. The Bill includes a requirement for consent of the land owners in some cases. If the land is acquired for use by a private company, 80% of land owners need to give consent. If it is for use by a public private partnership (PPP), 70% of the land owners have to agree to the acquisition. The rationale of having differential consent requirements based on ownership—including the lack of any such requirement if the land is for the use of the government or a public sector undertaking—is not clear. Why should a land owner, who is losing his land care, whether the intended project is to be executed by the government or a private company? The Bill specifies that the compensation will be computed in the following manner. Three factors are taken into account: the circle rate according to the Stamp Act; the average of the top 50% of sale deeds registered in the vicinity in the previous three years; the amount agreed upon, if any, in case of purchase by a private company or PPP. The higher of these three amounts is multiplied by a factor, which varies from 1 in urban areas to a number between 1 and 2 in rural areas, depending upon the distance from the urban centre. To this amount, the value of any fixed assets such as buildings, trees, irrigation channels etc is added. Finally, this figure is doubled (as solatium, i.e. compensation for the fact that the transaction was made with an unwilling seller). The justification given for the multiplier ranging from 1 to 2 is that many transactions are registered at a price significantly lower than the actual value in order to evade taxes—the moot question is whether such under-reporting is uniform across the country? The Bill states that all persons who are affected by the project should be rehabilitated and resettled (R&R). The R&R entitlements for each family includes a house, a one-time allowance, and choice of (a) employment for one person in the project, (b) one-time payment of R5 lakh, or (c) inflation adjusted annuity of R2,000 per month for 20 years. In addition, the resettlement areas should have infrastructure such as a school, post office, roads, drainage, drinking water, etc. The process has several steps. Every acquisition, regardless of size, needs a social impact assessment, which will be reviewed by an expert committee, and evaluated by the state government. Then a preliminary notification will be issued, land records will be updated, objections will be heard, rehabilitation and resettlement survey carried out, and a final declaration of acquisition issued. The owners can then claim compensation, the final award will be announced, and the possession of the land taken. The total time for this process can last up to 50 months. The big question is whether this time frame would hinder economic development and the viability of projects? The Bill provides for an Authority to adjudicate disputes related to measurement of land, compensation payable, R&R etc, with appeals to be heard by the High Court. There are several restrictions on the land acquired. The purpose for which land is acquired cannot be changed. If land is not used for five years, it would be transferred to a land bank or the original owners. Transfer of ownership needs prior permission, and in case of transfer in the first five years, 40% of capital gains have to be shared with the original owners. Recent cases of land acquisition have been followed by public protests, and the stalling of the acquisition. Whereas some of these may be driven by political agendas, the old Act was perceived to be unfair to land owners in several ways. The challenge for Parliament is to examine the new Bill and craft the law in such a way that it is fair (and perceived as such) to land owners, while making acquisition feasible and practical for projects that are required for economic development and other areas of public interest.
Recently, the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare submitted its report to the Parliament on the National Commission for Human Resource for Health Bill, 2011. The objective of the Bill is to “ensure adequate availability of human resources in the health sector in all states”. It seeks to set up the National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH), National Board for Health Education (NBHE), and the National Evaluation and Assessment Council (NEAC) in order to determine and regulate standards of health education in the country. It separates regulation of the education sector from that of professions such as law, medicine and nursing, and establishes professional councils at the national and state levels to regulate the professions. See here for PRS Bill Summary. The Standing Committee recommended that this Bill be withdrawn and a revised Bill be introduced in Parliament after consulting stakeholders. It felt that concerns of the professional councils such as the Medical Council of India and the Dental Council of India were not adequately addressed. Also, it noted that the powers and functions of the NCHRH and the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (to be established under the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 to regulate the higher education sector in the country) were overlapping in many areas. Finally, it also expressed concern over the acute shortage of qualified health workers in the country as well as variations among states and rural and urban areas. As per the 2001 Census, the estimated density of all health workers (qualified and unqualified) is about 20% less than the World Health Organisation’s norm of 2.5 health workers per 1000 population. See here for PRS Standing Committee Summary. Shortfall of health workers in rural areas Public health care in rural areas is provided through a multi-tier network. At the lowest level, there are sub health-centres for every population of 5,000 in the plains and 3,000 in hilly areas. The next level consists of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) for every population of 30,000 in the plains and 20,000 in the hills. Generally, each PHC caters to a cluster of Gram Panchayats. PHCs are required to have one medical officer and 14 other staff, including one Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM). There are Community Health Centres (CHCs) for every population of 1,20,000 in the plains and 80,000 in hilly areas. These sub health centres, PHCs and CHCs are linked to district hospitals. As on March 2011, there are 14,8124 sub health centres, 23,887 PHCs and 4809 CHCs in the country.[i] Sub-Health Centres and Primary Health Centres
- § Among the states, Chhattisgarh has the highest vacancy of doctors at 71%, followed byWest Bengal(44%),Maharashtra(37%), and Uttar Pradesh (36%). On the other hand, Rajasthan (0.4%), Andhra Pradesh (3%) and Kerala (7%) have the lowest vacancies in PHCs.
- § Nine states do not have any doctor vacancies at all at the PHC level. These states includeBihar, Jharkhand andPunjab.
- § Ten states have vacancy in case of ANMs. These are: Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,Gujarat,Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
- § The overall vacancy for ANMs in the country is 5% while for doctors it is 24%.
Doctors at PHCs
ANM at PHCs and Sub-Centres
|State||Sanctioned post||Vacancy||% of vacancy||Sanctioned post||Vacancy||% of vacancy|
|Andaman & Nicobar Isld||40||12||30||214||0||0|
|Dadra & Nagar Haveli||6||0||NA||40||0||0|
|Daman & Diu||3||0||NA||26||0||0|
|Jammu & Kashmir||750||0||NA||2282||0||0|
|Sources: National Rural Health Mission (available here), PRS.Note: The data for all states is as of March 2011 except for some states where data is as of 2010. For doctors, these states are Bihar, UP, Mizoram and Delhi. For ANMs, these states are Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.|
- § A CHC is required to be manned by four medical specialists (surgeon, physician, gynaecologist and paediatrician) and 21 paramedical and other staff.
- § As of March 2011, overall there is a 39% vacancy of medical specialists in CHCs. Out of the sanctioned posts, 56% of surgeons, 47% of gynaecologists, 59% of physicians and 49% of paediatricians were vacant.
- States such as Chhattisgarh, Manipur and Haryana have a high rate of vacancies at the CHC level.
% of vacancy
|Andaman & NicobarIsland||100||100||100||100|
|Dadra & Nagar Haveli||0||0||0||0|
|Daman & Diu||0||100||0||100|
|Jammu & Kashmir||34||34||53||63|
|Sources: National Rural Health Mission (available here), PRS.|
According to news reports (see here and here), the Cabinet approved four Bills for discussion in Parliament. The Bills cleared for consideration and passing are: the Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010; the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010 and the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, 2010. It cleared the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012 for introduction in Parliament. In this post, we discuss the key provisions of the Bills and the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD). The Copyright (Amendment) Bill, 2010 The Bill was introduced on April 19, 2010 in the Rajya Sabha and referred to the Standing Committee on HRD, which tabled its report on November 23, 2010. The government had attempted to pass it in the Winter session twice. However, the Opposition raised the issue of conflict of interest. The Rules of the Ethics Committee state that a MP has to declare his personal or pecuniary interest in a matter, which is under discussion in the Rajya Sabha. The MPs contended that the HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, could not pilot the Bill without declaring his interest. They argued that his son was the lawyer for a music company which is party to a legal dispute with TV broadcasters to which the amendment would apply (see here for debate on the issue in Parliament). The Copyright Act, 1957 defines the rights of authors of creative works such as books, plays, music, and films. Two key amendments proposed in the Bill are: - Copyright in a film currently rests with the producer for 60 years. The Bill vests copyright in a director as well. - The Bill makes special provisions for those whose work is used in films or sound recordings (e.g. lyricists or composers). Rights to royalties from such works, when used in media other than films or sound recordings, shall rest with the creator of the work. (See here for PRS analysis of the Bill) Key recommendations of the Standing Committee: (a) Drop the provision that makes the principal director the author of a film along with the producer; and (b) Keep the provisions for compulsory licensing in line with the terms of international agreements. (See here for PRS Standing Committee Report summary) The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010 The Bill was introduced on May 3, 2010 in the Lok Sabha and referred to the Standing Committee on HRD, which tabled its report on August 12, 2011. This Bill is part of the government’s attempt to reform the higher education sector. The key objective is to provide an effective means of quality assurance in higher education. Presently, accreditation is voluntary. Higher educational institutions are accredited by two autonomous bodies set up by the University Grants Commission and the All India Council of Technical Education. The Bill makes it mandatory for each institution and every programme to get accredited by an accreditation agency. The agencies have to be registered with the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority. Only non-profit, government controlled bodies are eligible to register as accreditation agencies. (See here for PRS analysis of the Bill) The Standing Committee made some recommendations: (a) assessment for accreditation should start after two batches of students have passed out of the institution; (b) there should be specific provisions for medical education; and (c) registration to accreditation agencies should initially be granted for five years (could be extended to 10 years). (See here for PRS Standing Committee Report summary) The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, 2010 The Bill was introduced on December 7, 2010 in the Lok Sabha and referred to the Standing Committee on HRD, which tabled its report on December 8, 2011. The Indian Penal Code covers criminal acts that outrage or insult the 'modesty' of women. It does not cover situations which could create a hostile or difficult environment for women at the work place. The Supreme Court in 1997 (Vishaka judgment) laid down guidelines to protect women from sexual harassment. This Bill defines sexual harassment and provides a mechanism for redressing complaints. The protection against sexual harassment is applicable to all women at the workplace. However, the Bill does not cover domestic workers working at home. (See here for PRS analysis of the Bill) The Standing Committee recommendations addressed issues of gender neutrality, inclusion of domestic workers and the modified definition of sexual harassment. (See here for PRS Standing Committee Report summary) The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012 The Bill was cleared by the Cabinet and is likely to be introduced in Parliament this session. It seeks to provide for the establishment and incorporation of Universities for Research and Innovation. These universities shall be hubs of education, research and innovation. Although an official copy of the Bill is not yet available, newspaper reports suggest that this is an omnibus law under which innovation universities (focused on specific research areas such as environment, astrophysics and urban planning) shall be established. In India, a university can only be set up through an Act of Parliament or state legislature. The Planning Commission’s Working Group on Higher Education report stated that these universities could be funded by the private sector as well. The government aims to create 14 innovation universities, which would be world class.
What is petitioning? Petitioning is a formal process that involves sending a written appeal to Parliament. The public can petition Parliament to make MPs aware of their opinion and/ or to request action. Who petitions and how? Anyone can petition Parliament. The only requirement is that petitions be submitted in the prescribed format, in either Hindi or English, and signed by the petitioner. In the case of Lok Sabha, the petition is normally required to be countersigned by an MP. According to the Rules of Lok Sabha, "This practice is based on the principle that petitions are normally presented by members in their capacity as elected representatives of the people, and that they have to take full responsibility for the statements made therein and answer questions on them in the House, if any, are raised." Petitions can be sent to either House in respect of:
- Any Bills/ other matters that are pending before the House
- Any matter of general public interest relating to the work of the Central Government
The petition should not raise matters that are currently sub-judice or for which remedy is already available under an existing law of the Central Government. Petition formats can be accessed at: Lok Sabha; Rajya Sabha What happens to the petition once it has been submitted? Once submitted, the petition may either be tabled in the House or presented by an MP on behalf of the petitioner. These are then examined by the Committee on Petitions. The Committee may choose to circulate the petition and undertake consultations before presenting its report (For instance, the Petition praying for development of Railway network in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan States). It may also invite comments from the concerned Ministries. The recommendations of the Committee are then presented in the form of a report to the House. Previous reports can be accessed at the relevant committee pages on the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha websites.
One of the most politically contentious issues in recent times has been the government’s right to acquire land for ‘public purpose’. Increasingly, farmers are refusing to part with their land without adequate compensation, the most recent example being the agitation in Uttar Pradesh over the acquisition of land for the Yamuna Express Highway. Presently, land acquisition in India is governed by the Land Acquisition Act, an archaic law passed more than a century ago in 1894. According to the Act, the government has the right to acquire private land without the consent of the land owners if the land is acquired for a “public purpose” project (such as development of towns and village sites, building of schools, hospitals and housing and state run corporations). The land owners get only the current price value of the land as compensation. The key provision that has triggered most of the discontent is the one that allows the government to acquire land for private companies if it is for a “public purpose” project. This has led to conflict over issues of compensation, rehabilitation of displaced people and the type of land that is being acquired. The UPA government introduced the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill in conjunction with the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill on December 6, 2007 in the Lok Sabha and referred them to the Standing Committee on Rural Development for scrutiny. The Committee submitted its report on October 21, 2008 but the Bills lapsed at the end of the 14th Lok Sabha. The government is planning to introduce revised versions of the Bills. The following paragraphs discuss the lapsed Bills to give some idea of the government’s perspective on the issue while analysing the lacunae in the Bills. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007 redefined “public purpose” to allow land acquisition only for defence purposes, infrastructure projects, or any project useful to the general public where 70% of the land had already been purchased from willing sellers through the free market. It prohibited land acquisition for companies unless they had already purchased 70% of the required land. The Bill also made it mandatory for the government to conduct a social impact assessment if land acquisition resulted in displacement of 400 families in the plains or 200 families in the hills or tribal areas. The compensation was to be extended to tribals and individuals with tenancy rights under state laws. The compensation was based on many factors such as market rates, the intended use of the land, and the value of standing crop. A Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority was to be established to adjudicate disputes. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 sought to provide for benefits and compensation to people displaced by land acquisition or any other involuntary displacements. The Bill created project-specific authorities to formulate, implement and monitor the rehabilitation process. It also outlined minimum benefits for displaced families such as land, house, monetary compensation, skill training and preference for jobs. A grievance redressal system was also provided for. Although the Bills were a step in the right direction, many issues still remained unresolved. Since the Land Acquisition Bill barred the civil courts from entertaining any disputes related to land acquisition, it was unclear whether there was a mechanism by which a person could challenge the qualification of a project as “public purpose”. Unlike the Special Economic Zone Act, 2005, the Bill did not specify the type of land that could be acquired (such as waste and barren lands). The Bill made special provision for land taken in the case of ‘urgency’. However, it did not define the term urgency, which could lead to confusion and misuse of the term. The biggest loop-hole in the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill was the use of non-binding language. Take for example Clause 25, which stated that “The Government may, by notification, declare any area…as a resettlement area.” Furthermore, Clause 36(1) stated that land for land “shall be allotted…if Government land is available.” The government could effectively get away with not providing many of the benefits listed in the Bill. Also, most of the safeguards and benefits were limited to families affected by large-scale displacements (400 or more families in the plains and 200 or more families in the hills and tribal areas). The benefits for affected families in case of smaller scale displacements were not clearly spelt out. Lastly, the Bill stated that compensation to displaced families should be borne by the requiring body (body which needs the land for its projects). Who would bear the expenditure of rehabilitation in case of natural disasters remained ambiguous. If India is to attain economic prosperity, the government needs to strike a balance between the need for development and protecting the rights of people whose land is being acquired. Kaushiki Sanyal The article was published in Sahara Time (Issue dated September 4, 2010, page 36)
Because of the interest in the Women’s Reservation Bill and the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, we’ve received a number of queries about the process by which a bill becomes an Act. We have a more comprehensive primer on the subject, but here’s the process in brief: •The ministry drafts a text of the proposed law, which is called a ‘Bill’, after calling comments from other ministries, and even from the public. The draft is revised to incorporate such inputs and is then vetted by the Law Ministry. It is then presented to the Cabinet for approval. •After the Cabinet approves the Bill, it is introduced in Parliament. In Parliament, it goes through three Readings in both Houses. • During the First Reading the Bill is introduced. The introduction of a Bill may be opposed and the matter may be put to a vote in the House. •After a Bill has been introduced, the Bill may be referred to the concerned Departmentally Related Standing Committee for examination. •The Standing Committee considers the broad objectives and the specific clauses of the Bill referred to it and may invite public comments on a Bill. It then submits its recommendations in the form of a report to Parliament. •In the Second Reading (Consideration), the Bill is scrutinized thoroughly. Each clause of the Bill is discussed and may be accepted, amended or rejected. The government, or any MP, may introduce amendments to the Bill. However, the government is not bound to accept the Committee’s recommendations. •During the Third Reading (Passing), the House votes on the redrafted Bill. •If the Bill is passed in one House, it is then sent to the other House, where it goes through the second and third readings. •After both Houses of Parliament pass a Bill, it is presented to the President for assent. He/She has the right to seek information and clarification about the Bill, and may return it to Parliament for reconsideration. (If both Houses pass the Bill again, the President has to assent) • After the President gives assent, the Bill is notified as an Act.