LAND LAWS LOCKED

The Centre on Tuesday cleared the decks for people from across the country to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir by amending several laws, in one of the significant moves post abrogation of Article 370 last year.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs cleared an order, the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order-2020, to allow outsider to buy land in J&K, except the agricultural land.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act-2019 (34 of 2019) and of all other powers enabling it in that behalf, the Central Government hereby makes the order in respect of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” reads the notification.

The Order comes into force with immediate effect and as per it the General Clauses Act-1897 “applies for the interpretation of this order as it applies for

interpretation of laws in force in the territory of India.”

In a 111-page notification in Hindi and English, the Ministry made several changes to the land laws, including one that allows use of agricultural land for setting up facilities of public purpose.

The changes related to the ownership of the land have been made through newly introduced J&K Development Act. In Sub Section (2) of the Act, ”whole of the state” has been replaced by “whole of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir” while in Section 2 of the Act “being permanent resident of the state” has been omitted altogether, to affect the changes in land ownership rights.

As per the Order, the Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act 1995 which prohibited transfer of land to any person who was not a state subject now stands repealed as a whole. Section 4 of this Act had prohibited the transfer of the land in favour of any person who is not a state subject.

The notification however does not mention the Union Territory of Ladakh which till 5 August 2019 was part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Through the Order the Centre has amended the J&K Land Revenue Act-1996 to introduce restrictions on the transfer of agricultural land to non agriculturist and conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

Amendments have been made to the J&K Land Reforms Act as well. Under the transfer of land for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or education, the government may allow transfer of land in favor of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialized education in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Centre has also repealed most of the previous land laws, including  J&K Alienation of Land Act-1995, J&K Big Land Estates Act, J&K Common Lands (regulation) Act-1956  J&K Consolidation of Holdings Act-1962, 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 AD, 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 MHA’s order has also amended the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Decentralization and Recruitment Act 2010 to include ‘spouse’ of a domicile under the definition of “domicile”.

Before August 5, 2019, when the government read down Article 370 and 35A and divided it into two Union Territories, the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was constitutionally empowered to define a permanent resident of the J&K state. These defined residents were eligible to apply for jobs or own the property including land. The “outsiders” were barred from owning any property in J&K or applying for jobs.

Earlier this year, the Centre, however, scrapped the Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) and replaced it with domicile certificate, allowing outsiders to apply for jobs in J&K.

Former Advocate General, Muhammad Ishaq Qadri said the amendments have opened the floodgates for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land. “Now there is no legal bar on purchase of land here by outsiders,” he said. With inputs from PTI