Urban Land Ceiling Act

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The Act passed in the year 1976, one of the most progressive laws passed that aimed socialisation of urban land. The objectives of the law were to prevent "concentration of urban land in the hands of the few persons and its speculation and profiteering" and "bringing about an equitable distribution of land to subserve the common good". As part of the Twenty-Point Economic Program (TWEP), the government led by Indira Gandhi enacted the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act on 17th February 1976 by I K Gujral who was the Minister of Housing and Works, with the aim of preventing speculation in urban land and making land available with the government to build affordable housing. Amidst the neo-liberal reforms in the country, on 22nd 1999, the central government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed the ULCRA Repeal Act, following which many states repealed the Act and finally on 30th November 2007, the Government of Maharashtra also repealed it.

The Act provided a ceiling limit on vacant land that private individuals could hold in urban areas, for Bombay it was 500 sq. meters. If individuals held vacant land in excess of the ceiling limit, under ULCRA the state had powers to acquire the land by paying compensation. The Act contained some exemption clauses too. According to the exemption clauses, if the government felt that acquisition of excess land would cause undue hardship to the owners, or felt that it was in public interest to not acquire the land, it could be exempted. Further, if the landowners promised to build housing for "weaker sections" on their land, they could be awarded exemptions.

Those owning land in excess of the ceiling limit were required to file a statement containing the name and address of the person, particulars of vacant lands and of any other lands on which there was a building. The Act vested state governments with power to acquire land in excess of the ceiling limit after paying the compensation and the power to dispose of the excess vacant land to serve the common good.

As of November 2007, the total land declared surplus under ULCRA was 17,000 acres. Of this, 12,000 acres had been exempted under Sections 20 and 21. Of the remaining 5,945 acres, 1,827 acres was further exempt. This left a balance of 4,118 acres. Government ordered acquisition of 3,500 acres in the two years before the repeal. It was able to acquire only 2,282 acres but over two thirds of it was legally challenged.