Jammu, Oct 27: In a significant move, the Centre has paved the way for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the Union Territory (UT) by amending several laws. Some of the most significant changes have been made in J&K Land Revenue Act, J&K Development Act and J&K Agrarian Reforms Act.
Through Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 the home ministry has opened up the floodgates to the entire population of India to buy non-agriculture land in J&K. These new laws that will come into effect immediately do not have “permanent resident of the state” clause as well as any mention of domicile. Under this notification, 12 state laws have been repealed and 26 others have been adapted with changes or substituted.
Major Changes in J&K Land Revenue Act
MHA has amended the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996. It allows anyone to buy land in J&K now; except agricultural land, which can only be transferred/sold to an agriculturist who personally cultivates land in Jammu and Kashmir. The broad definition of “Agriculturist” under this act encompasses individuals who are not a domicile of Jammu and Kashmir but does cultivate the land in J&K. Furthermore, there is no stay on ejecting an occupant of the land if he/she does not have ownership rights of the property. Also, Government can authorize an agriculturist to alienate land to a non-agriculturist for sale, gift, lease or exchange.
Any Local area can be declared “Strategic Area” on request of the army
Under the newly introduced J&K Development Act (XIX of 1970), it notified that “omit, being permanent resident of the State”. Under the amended J&K Development Act, 1970, the Government may on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander, declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces. The fresh notification underlined that the government may on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander declare an area as Strategic Area within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act and rules and regulations made there under in the manner and to the extent.
Establishment of Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Corporation
A new body- the Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Corporation has been set up. The functions of the corporation include promotion and assisting in the rapid and orderly establishment, growth and development of Industries in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
Whenever any land is required by the Corporation for any purpose in furtherance of the objects of this Act, but the Corporation is unable to acquire it by agreement, the Government could invoke the provision of the Right to Fair Compensation Act, and acquire the land on behalf of the Corporation for “public purpose.”
Changes in Agrarian Reforms Act
MHA by amending the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act 1970 has clipped the powers of the Revenue Minister who citing public interest could overturn an order passed by a Tehsildar or Assistant commissioner in respect of any evacuees’ land or State land. The provisions of this act that allowed a person to plant orchids on grazing land in return for grazing land elsewhere have been omitted.
The amended act also states, “No person who is vested with ownership rights in land under this Act shall transfer such land or rights therein in any manner whatsoever to any person other than Government or its agencies and instrumentalities.” The previous act mentioned Govt of Jammu and Kashmir, but now the scope has been expanded to mean any Government, its agencies and instrumentalities.
The Centre has repealed most of the previous land laws, including the J&K Prevention of Fragmentation of Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960; J&K Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975; the J&K Right of Prior Purchase ACT, 1936 A.D; Section 3 of the J&K Tenancy (Stay of Ejectment Proceedings) Act 1966; the J&K Utilisation of Land Act, 2010; and the J&K Underground Utilities (Acquisition of rights of user in land) Act.
The Centre also completely repealed the J&K Alienation of Land Act, 1995 and the J&K Big Land Estates Act and the J&K Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1956 and the J&K Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1962.
Section 30 of and Part VII of the State Land Acquisition Act, Samvat 1990 was substituted by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (30 of 2013). Introducing the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Act, 1987 was also substituted by the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (16 of 1927). J&K Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Act which had been earlier repealed is now substituted with a Central Law i.e Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016.
MHA has further amended the domicile law, but without extending its ambit towards land acts. Now the “spouse of a domicile shall also be deemed to be a domicile” This earlier pertained to children of Central Government officials posted in J&K for a total period of ten years who are also eligible as domiciles.
Response of Politicians
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticised the amendments. “Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of Jammu and Kashmir,” he tweeted.
Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of J&K. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land & transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale & the poorer small land holding owners will suffer.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 27, 2020
He said, “Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale and the poorer small landholding owners will suffer.”
“The new laws are a consequence of the measures undertaken by the Centre on 5th of August without democratic bearings and much to the resentment and anger of the region’s populace,” Omar added.
On the other hand, former CM and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the new land laws were part of the government’s nefarious designs to disempower and disenfranchise people of the Valley.
“Yet another step that’s part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources & finally putting land in J&K up for sale,” the PDP chief said in a tweet.
“I haven’t had a chance to study the laws yet,” said BJP Spokesperson Abhinav Sharma.
BJP UT Chief Ravinder Raina and Chief Spokesperson Sunil Sethi could not be reached for comment.