Land bill shelved; Omar calls Cabinet ‘inept’

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party on Thursday joined hands with its ally BharatiyaJanta Party in the Legislative Assembly to “sabotage” a crucial bill aimed at protecting the interests of J&K’s permanent residents and to prevent the transfer of land to non-state subjects in
Land bill shelved; Omar calls Cabinet ‘inept’
Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party on Thursday  joined hands with its ally BharatiyaJanta Party in the Legislative Assembly to "sabotage" a crucial bill aimed at protecting the interests of  J&K's permanent residents and to prevent the  transfer of land to non-state subjects  in Jammu province.

The Bill was sent to select committee after PDP and BJP lawmakers, through voice-vote, "pushed it in the cold storage" amid protests and disruptions by the opposition, which supported the Bill and repeatedly demanded that it be put to vote for passage.  

The BJP's U-turn on the bill after giving nod for its  introduction in the House during the June 23 cabinet meeting, forced the PDP to toe the line of right-wing party on the crucial legislation, to "save the coalition government" in the State.

The Assembly witnessed a high-drama when the bill for amending the J&K Transfer of Property Act-1977 was tabled in the House at 12:15 pm today. The amendment sought restrictions—throughout the State—on taking possession of or construction activity on property transferred, unless it is registered in accordance with law of the land. Presently, such restrictions are applicable to Kashmir only.

As soon as Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Syed BashratBukhari tabled bill in the House, the BJP members vehemently opposed it.

BJP MLA, RavinderPathania–who had moved an amendment seeking that the bill should be sent to select committee, voiced opposition to the bill.

"The intent of the bill is less explained. It needs more consultation. We need to elicit public opinion over it," Pathania said.

The BJP lawmaker demanded that the bill should be referred to select committee for examination.

As Pathania was speaking, several BJP lawmakers stood up and agitated against the bill, creating embarrassing situation for the PDP. This led to entire opposition attacking the Government for being divided on the bill.

"Your House is divided. It is for the first time that Treasury Benches are opposing the Government Bill. Your cabinet approved the bill and now you are opposing it here," Tarigami told the treasury benches. "The demand for referring a Government bill to select committee has never come from Treasury benches in history of this House."

He said the bill was aimed at rectifying aberration in the land laws and not against any region. "It is not against Jammu," he repeatedly maintained.

The CPI (M) lawmaker asked the Government to move a motion for passing the Bill. "The entire opposition supports the Bill," he said.

As BJP MLAs continued with disruptions, PDP Ministers AbdurRehmanVeeri, Abdul Haq Khan and ChoudaryZulifkar Ali were seen asking them to remain silent. However, they continued with the protests.

Amid din in the House, BJP's Rajiv Jasrotia demanded withdrawal of the bill while former Minister of State and MLA UdhampurPawan Gupta stormed in the Well to oppose it.

Amid protests by BJP, Minister for CAPD, ChoudharyZulfikar said the Bill is at consideration stage. "We have to discuss and debate the bill in this institution," he said.

At this moment, National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar asked the  PDP to clear its position on the Bill. 

He said the bill is a good piece of legislation and "we support it". "This amendment is aimed at undoing the aberration in the law. The bill has been brought in the House to prevent transfer of land to non-state subjects," Sagar said.

As the NC leader was speaking, entire opposition including Congress MLAs and independent lawmaker Er. Rashid voiced their support for the bill.

Pledging party's support for the bill, senior Congress leader NawangRigzinJora said: "we have never witnessed such a drama in the House."

"This has never happened (in this House) when members from the Treasury bench have opposed the bill approved by the cabinet," Jora said. "This is sheer hypocrisy."

As Treasury benches faced all-round attack from the opposition, Peoples Conference chairman and Minister for Social Welfare SajadGani Lone accused the opposition of "belittling the institution of democracy". 

"The democracy provides space for dissent. You should not rejoice over dissent within the cabinet," Sajad told the opposition.

National Conference working president Omar Abdullah also demanded that the bill should be put to voting for passage.

As opposition continued with their demand, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs AbdurRehmanVeeri said the practice of referring  bills to select committee is not a new thing. "This practice is in vogue for decades. Senior members know about this," he said.

PDP MLA from Baramulla, JavaidBaigh openly supported BJP's demand for referring the bill to the select committee.

"We shouldn't rush through. We shouldn't allow anybody to exploit the situation. We need to keep J&K united at any cost," he said.

He said "laws are made to create order in the society. "They are not made so that people should fight with each other," he said.

The BJP MLAs were repeatedly applauding the MLA Baramulla, during his speech,  by thumping their desks. However, several PDP members were embarrassed by Baigh's remarks.   

At this moment, MLA Amira Kadal and senior PDP leader Syed AltafBukhari said majority of the House is in favour of the bill.

"Omar Abdullah has made some comments in this regard and TarigamiSahab has explained it. I think majority of the House is in favour of the Bill," he said.

The PDP leader said some members cannot take the entire House hostage. "Let the Bill be passed," Bukhari demanded.

Suddenly, PDP Minister Syed BasharatBukhari suggested that the bill should be sent to select committee.

"If the House allows, let it be sent to select committee," he said.

Bukhari's remarks triggered protests from entire opposition, who shouted "No, NO".

Amid pandemonium in the House, the bill was referred to select committee by the House with voice vote.

All lawmakers from PDP, except Syed AltafBukhari, supported the demand of sending the bill to select committee.

Soon entire opposition resorted to massive anti-government sloganeering to protest against "killing of  the bill".

"They have killed the bill to save the chair," the opposition alleged.

Shouting slogans "PDP Ne GhutneTekDeya BJP KeSamne (PDP has surrendered before BJP), Nagpur Sarkar HaiHai (Down with Nagpur Government)," the entire opposition staged a walk-out from the House.

CABINET INEXPERIENCED: OMAR

Former Chief Minister and NC working president Omar Abdullah Thursday accused the PDP and BJP of being in fixed match to sabotage the bill aimed at amending the Transfer of Property Act.

Omar made these remarks before the bill was sent by the House to select committee despite entire opposition supporting it.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Omar said the coalition government got entangled in its own trap. "You people brought the bill and now you are trapped," he said. 

Omar said the PDP –BJP cabinet is inexperienced and "did not what was in the bill (sic). Your cabinet cleared the Bill and brought it in the Assembly."

He said the BJP got worried about contents of the bill after the cabinet approved it.

"After the bill was cleared by the cabinet, the BJP members started ringing each other to know what was in it. Their Ministers didn't know what was in it. Suddenly, they identified a provision and decided to engage in a fixed match (to scuttle the bill)," he said.

The NC working president said the amendment submitted by two BJP lawmakers that the bill should be sent to select committee, was part of this fixed match.

Omar also took potshots at Minister for Social Welfare Sajjad Lone, saying he (Sajad) is just a year old in the House "but is now sermonizing us on democracy."

"The Legislative Assembly is not to subvert any good piece of legislation," Omar said.

Omar made these remarks after Sajad Lone accused the Opposition of belittling the institution of democracy.

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