State govt wants to have right of way through private property

The state government has constituted a committee to prepare a draft ‘Right of Way through private property’ bill. The bill will be the legal framework for providing the government subterranean and aerial rights through private property.

The bill will help the state government in going ahead with building infrastructure projects, avoiding the opposition to any land acquisition required. For instance, the government could use provisions of the bill to build the underground Metro III project. Around two hectares of private property is to be acquired for this purpose.

The government is also planning a slew of metro projects in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune and Nagpur. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced that henceforth all Metro projects will be underground.

The government’s ‘Right of Way’ will curtail the rights of the owner in future development of the land and for such curtailment, the state would need to pay compensation. The committee, headed by principal secretary Manu Kumar Srivastava, has been directed by the government to ensure the bill is placed before the assembly during the winter session of the legislature.

Currently only the BMC municipal commissioner under the BMC Act has the right of way to lay pipelines through private property. The state government has no such right of way for the rest of the state.

“There are other laws such as the Petroleum and Minerals (Acquisition of Right of User in land) Act, 1962, but this is only for a very specific purpose. Similarly, the Telegraph Act is again for a specific purpose and it cannot be used for all infrastructure projects,” said a senior official.

The draft bill will cover issues such as laying of transmission lines, underground metro, under-passes, roads, sewer lines, water pipelines etc.

“Right to property is a constitutional right. There is no law at present that allows the government to pass through private property and any such project through private property would be tantamount to trespass. Hence the need for an Act that gives the government these rights for public projects,” said an official.

The committee will decide on whether ‘right of way through private property’ should be extended for public-private projects too.

Explaining the curtailment of rights of an individual, the official said if transmission lines were to be laid across fields in rural areas, then the vertical rights of the owner would be curtailed for which she/he needs to be compensated. Similarly, an underground metro in urban areas would curtail the right of the owner of a house who in future may want to build a building but may not be able to do the necessary piling work on account of underground infrastructure. She/he too needs to be compensated.

“The draft bill will set the methodology for compensation to ensure it is uniform and transparent and not random,” said the official.

However, activists said the government, instead of giving itself the right of way through an Act, should negotiate with individual owners and buy the right.

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