The amended land laws for Jammu & Kashmir Who can buy or sell land in the Union Territory and what are the other rules governing it?
The story so far:
- On October 26, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced several amendments to land laws for the Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir (J&K), including the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act of 1970, which till now entitled only permanent residents to purchase or sell property in the former State, and the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996. The MHA notification said the “Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 shall come into force with immediate effect and will encourage development in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir”. In August last year, the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and Article 35A was revoked. Section 96 of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 empowers the MHA to adapt and modify any law by way of repeal or amendment before the expiration of one year from the appointed day of the Union Territory of J&K, which is October 31, 2019.
What are the changes?
- The MHA has amended sections of the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996 and the J&K Development Act of 1970. The 1996 Act pertains to management of agricultural land and the 1970 Act deals with zonal development plans determining land use for public buildings, roads, housing recreation, industry, business, markets, schools, hospitals and public and private open spaces. According to the amendment to the Land Revenue Act, anyone from any part of the country can now buy land in J&K, including agricultural land. Though the amendments prohibit sale, transfer, mortgage and conversion of agricultural land to a non-agriculturist in the UT, it can still be allowed, “provided that the Government or an officer authorized by it in this behalf may grant permission to an agriculturist to alienate the land to a non-agriculturist by way of sale, gift, exchange or mortgage”.
- The government can allow the transfer of agricultural land to a public trust for charitable work, healthcare, education, industrial or commercial purposes. A Board of Revenue headed by a Financial Commissioner has been constituted and a fresh clause defining “agricultural land” as land which is used or is capable of being used for agriculture and allied activities, including fallow land, has been inserted. The amendment deletes the “permanent resident” provision in the 1970 Act that provided housing sites within the range of 25-30 square metres to permanent residents belonging to “economically weaker section” and “low income groups”. Now, economically deprived people from all parts of the country will be eligible for such housing sites.
- A fresh provision has been added, by which the government, on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of a Corps Commander, may declare an area as a “strategic area” for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.
- It also creates the Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Corporation for establishing commercial centres and industries in the UT. The Corporation shall consist of twelve directors, four of whom could be nominated from the private sector with experience in “industry or trade or finance”. The Corporation will have the power to acquire movable and immovable property, and to lease, sell, exchange or transfer any property held by it. If the Corporation is unable to acquire land by an agreement, the government could order proceedings under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and acquire the land for “public purpose”. No court can take cognisance relating to property vested in the Corporation, except when the Corporation files a complaint. No legal suit can be filed against officials of the Corporation without a prior notice of two months and not later than six months from the date of complaint.
What amendments have been brought about in government land holdings?
- The Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act, 1960, which regulates grant of government land on lease and earlier applied to urban areas of Jammu, Srinagar and towns, will now be extended to the entire UT. The amendment omits the permanent resident clause to get government land on lease for “residential purposes”. The J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, which provided for transfer of land from big land owners to tillers, has been amended. The erstwhile agrarian reforms Act stated that only up to two kanals (0.25 acre) of land could be held per family for residential purposes.
What about laws for Ladakh?
- The main political parties in J&K have questioned the land laws, and say the Centre engaged with Ladakh and not J&K on land laws and job protection. The laws for Ladakh have not yet been notified as local leaders have demanded inclusion in the Sixth Schedule (tribal) of the Constitution to protect their land from “outsiders”.