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Constitutional Fairness Vis-A-Vis Eviction Drive, A Case Study With Respect To Assam

Eviction is the activity and action of the expulsion of someone from his or her property. The govt across India is taking eviction drives in a routine manner which ultimately becomes a center of controversy in India. It is being criticized for violating the rule of law, going against constitutional fairness, going against the concept of natural justice, etc. It's also criticized for its partial and arbitrary nature.

Along the same line, the Assam govt has also taken eviction drives in the state of Assam, which triggers criticism from many sections of the society for the violative rule of law, which goes against constitutional fairness, arbitrary in nature. The state is taking eviction drives without any rehabilitation plan, violating people right to property, etc. On the other hand, govt has the opinion that these drives are as per the rule, mainly taken to free the govt and forest land from the encroachers.

Here I will study and research:
  • What are the rules and court opinions regarding eviction in Assam?
  • Whether these eviction drives violate constitutional fairness, etc.?

According to Prof. Upendra Baxi, India had at least seven constitutions by 2010 and many more will come. In explaining the country's constitutional history after independence, he told the constitution always transforms depending on the ideological and political situations that are held in the nation from time to time.

Thus any setback to the idea of the rule of law is a setback to the constitutional culture of India. He was, in a way, expounding the country's constitutional history after Independence. He implied that a house is not merely a property, it is a life and livelihood, it hosts the wisdom and innocence of old as well as innocence, a house is a unit of our republic so anything which affects a house is a blow to our republic.

The recent eviction drive by govt across India brought controversy about the legality of the eviction drives. These are being criticized for being violative of the constitution, going against constitutional fairness, violates people's right to property guaranteed under art 300-A of the Constitution of India. It was also criticized for violating the rule of law, going against the doctrine of natural justice, being arbitrary, against the ruling of the apex court of India, etc.

The eviction drive in Assam is recently in the debate Assam govt recent eviction drive evoked controversy in Assam and across the nation. The recent eviction drive in many places is criticized for being arbitrary, going against the concept of natural justice, The eviction drive is criticized for being partial, targeting one single community, etc. It goes against the apex court ruling and violates the constitutional provision of the right to property, etc.

On the other hand, govt authority stated that the eviction drives are as per the rule, it is done to clear the govt land and forest land from encroachment. Opposition to the eviction drive local representation stated that they are the victim of the flood and erosion of the Brahmaputra river, many people had to settle in this land because of the loss of the land to the erosion of the river. According to the report.

The Brahmaputra river has wiped out nearly 4000 square kilometers of land at the rate of 80 square kilometers per year, it destroys more than 2500 villages affecting more than 5 million people in Assam. Assam Water Resources stated that the Assam valley of the Brahmaputra river lost approximately 7.4 percent of the land area due to the erosion of the Brahmaputra.

Eviction and Constitution

Eviction is the act of expulsing someone from his or her property. Eviction which are taken as a routine manner in contemporary India comes under controversy, questions are raised regarding their validity, compliance with the rule of law and constitution, following of the doctrine of natural justice, etc.

Article 300-A inserted in the Indian constitution by the 44th amendment says that no person can be deprived of property without the authority of the law. However, the article doesn't provide any compensation of property if there is any deprivation of the property but The Supreme Court in the recent Kalyani (dead) Through Lrs. & Ors. vs. The Sulthan Bathery Municipality & Ors.

The activity of the appellants to acquire the land of the farmers without paying compensation is unreasonable, and arbitrary, which violates the right to the property ensured under the Indian Constitution. But there is limitations too in respect of this article; this right can be curtailed, abridged, and modified only by the law's authority but not by executive fiat. The court in T Plantation Pvt. Ltd vs. the State of Karnataka held that depriving a person of the property right can be done only in the pre-condition of public purpose, and the right to demand compensation is inbuilt into the art already.

In Maneka Gandhi vs. UOI, the court interpreted art 21 of the constitution. It stated that due process of the law is an integral part of the procedure established by the law, explaining that the procedure must be fair enough. When the procedure prescribed by the law is arbitrary and oppressive, it wouldn't be considered a procedure, and thus the requirement of art 21 wouldn't be satisfied.

In Municipal Corporation Ludhiana vs. Inderjit Singh, the apex court held that if issuing notice is a requirement under municipal law, the requirement must be necessarily followed. The Olga Tellis case said that the provision that dispenses the validity of the requirement of compulsory notice could get validation only by going through the principles of natural justice, the court delivered this while dealing with section 314 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act. In Sunbeam High Tech Developers Case(2019), the SC held that even though illegal construction can't be demolished illegally, fairness in state action is constitutionally imperative.

Law and Eviction in Assam

Assam are in the news for conducting eviction drives in many places. Assam govt 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. In the beginning, the Govt followed two routes in the eviction procedure as per the Land Revenue Regulation Act.

The first one is under Rule 18, as per this rule the district commissioner can summarily evict a person who encroaches upon land reserved for public purpose following summary eviction but a person who has a bonafide claim over the land cannot be evicted from the land. Rule 18 talks about issuing the notice giving the illegal encroachers 15 days to vacate the land. But in recent eviction cases, it is alleged by the people that govt only informed them about a few hours ago, and only some of the evicted people were informed.

The second route is lengthy one, the govt has to file a suit first against the person who encroached on the govt land, then he gets the right of hearing, presenting himself, evidence related his rights, right regarding appeal, revision, written submission, etc. so in this case, the individual get more rights than the previous one.

So, after going to the two norms, it can be understood a person who is summarily evicted under the rule18 of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act,1886, gets a very short period to establish their claim over land in an arbitrary and ad-hoc procedure. Due to this, govt chooses the procedure of summary procedure over instituting a case and going through the lengthy process and evicting a person.

When these issues were raised before the Gauhati High Court, HC on its judgment in the Bandhana Goala case, ruled out rule 18 as violative of art 14 of the Indian Constitution, so this judgment brought hope in the era of injustice, but govt didn't stop, govt in order to avoid the effect of the judgment inserted 154 A in the land revenue regulation.

Which gives the govt immunity against the arbitrary eviction, which tells that action done under rule 18 would be considered as a validly done. So now after the amendment, the govt can evict with impunity as the person who is evicted can't challenge the eviction in any civil court.

So now regulation 154 A is working as a protection against the state action of summary eviction after the effect of the Bandhana Goala judgment, which held rule 18 as violative of article 14 of the constitution of India. So, the state needs to follow judgment and amend the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act to do away with the summary procedure, but the state has taken a different approach which will lead to more suffering for the people.

In Bharati Das vs Jorhat Municipal Corporation, Gauhati high court held that whether a person has a bonafide claim over the land can only be decided after he has been given a chance to be heard. In Bimal Das vs State of Assam, the HC ruled a person cannot be evicted under rule 18 of the settlement rules without giving notice and without giving him time to make his stand, a person has the liberty to take a stand that he has a legal right over the disputed the land.

In Shri Ngurohiezao Angami vs Sub-Divisional Officer, the court in reply to a question raised whether a person can be evicted by using force without giving them any recourse to law, the court replied that a person can't be evicted by using force.

Eviction, Historical factors, and Impact in Assam

For a better understanding of eviction, one area is very important to study, which is the problem of erosion in Assam; going through these things is necessary to understand the whole eviction phenomenon better.

The erosion problem is called the root problem of everything, the displacement of the people and taking rehabilitation in any other land; people who become the victim of erosion have to take shelter on any land, and from where they are evicted as illegal one and again forced to go to the river edge, again displaced by the flood and erosion of the mighty Brahmaputra river and this way cycle goes on.

As per the report, The Brahmaputra river per year, at the rate of 80 square kilometers per, has wiped out nearly 4000 square kilometers of the land of Assam, destroying more than 2500 villages and affecting more than 5 million people in Assam. Assam's Water Resources estimated that Brahmaputra river's Assam valley portion lost approximately 7.4 percent of the land area due to the erosion of the Brahmaputra river.

The study about flood-affected areas gives a clear understanding of the scenario, about 36 percent of the land nearly 3 lakh people are affected on a regular basis which makes the displacement a reality in Assam. The char river line of the Brahmaputra river got submerged during monsoon seasons; at that time, people need to struggle for basic necessities.

Due to the lack of settlement procedure by the govt, eviction drives led to the violation of the right of the people, eviction violates the fundamental and constitutional rights of the individual, and the human rights of the evicted family are also greatly affected.

Eviction makes people homeless, dispossess them of their livelihood, and forces them to live in temporary makeshift where their health is affected, the disease affects them, losing possession of everything their livelihood becomes impossible at that time, and they only depend on the aid given by the NGO's, eviction affect the right to education of the evicted child, they are dispossessed from their belongings, educational materials, etc.

Eviction is the expulsion of someone from his property, the eviction issue has come to the news in the recent period, after it is being taken routinely across India, in the line of eviction in another state, Assam govt has taken similar drive which resulted in opposition from many corners of the state and nation as well as, the question is raised regarding the legality of the eviction drive, the constitutional fairness, etc.

Maximum eviction drives are taken under rule 18 of the Assam Land Revenue Regulation Acts. which was subsequently made illegal by the high court's judgment in the Bandhana Goala case but the state govt, to bypass the court's judgment, inserted Art 154-A, which gives govt immunity against this arbitrary eviction.

These eviction drives violate the constitutional right to property guaranteed to the people of India, violating the people right to life and security, right to shelter, etc. goes against the due process of law, etc. These eviction drives also violate the natural justice of the people because it is very clear that how this eviction drives without proper rehabilitation force people to miserable life devoid of dignity, and security, violating fundamental and constitutional rights of people.

So even after opposition from civil society, ignoring the judgment of the HC, the govt is undertaking eviction in a routine manner, which shows the will of the govt in this matter. and ultimately, one can tell that these evictions are arbitrary, against the rule of law, goes against constitutional fairness, etc.

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