CNBC India recently examined the similarities and differences of eminent domain laws and procedures around the world on it's legal program, The Firm. The program's focus upon eminent domain stems from legislation introduced in Indian in 2011, the Land Acquisition Bill, which proposes to allow the government to acquire land on behalf of private companies for public purpose. The bill defines public purpose as the building of roads, highways, strategic defense and other accepted public purposes. However, the Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, who drafted the bill defines public purpose much more loosely and has included such projects as redevelopment or economic development projects.
The Indian parliamentary standing committee, however, disagrees with Minister Ramesh's definition of public purpose and has defined public purpose to be only government sponsored projects. Further, the committee has argued that government should not acquire land for the benefit of private companies for use in projects coordinated by public-private partnerships. While the battle between economic development and private property rights is currently being waged in the Indian Parliament,a similar battle has been fought across the United States in the courts where public benefit is balanced with individual rights.
Owners' Counsel New York Member, Michael Rikon, spoke with The Firm regarding the law of eminent domain in the United States.
In the United States, each State, as I said, has its own fundamental common law with respect to what is allowable for a public use. In NY, for example, where I am based, it is almost without limitation that you can take someone's property and turn it over to a well connected developer or something like that to build a shopping center- you can take someone's home and turn it over to and build a large mall shopping center. New York is at the forefront of this and it's also very difficult to stop a condemnation in New York.
The most pointed argument with respect to eminent domain in United States is taking private property to turn over to another property owner. It's not for a typical public use like a bridge, a library or a school or a highway; it's the taking of private property to turn over to a developer who is going to build a shopping mall or something like that- that is the issue that upsets most people.
Watch the interview with Mr. Rikon and other lawyers from around the globe on The Firm's "A World View of Eminent Domain" episode here.