In a significant move, the Centre has paved the way for people outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the union territory by amending several laws. In a gazette notification, the Centre has notified the new land laws for Jammu and Kashmir allowing any Indian citizen to purchase land in the Union territory, sparking fears among locals as it was earlier meant only for permanent residents under Article 370.
Before the nullification of Article 370 and Article 35-A in August last year, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in J&K. However, the fresh amendments did not allow transfer of agricultural land to non-agriculturists. But, there are several exemptions in the Act which enables transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, including setting up of educational or health care facilities.
Former Advocate General Mohammad Ishaq Qadri said the amendments have opened floodgates for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy lands. “Now there is no legal bar on purchase of land here by outsiders,” he said. With the changes in the land acts, the MHA said, “The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA), 2016 will now be applicable in the UT.”
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah in a tweet said the amendments were “unacceptable”.
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
In a release, the ministry of home affairs has said that the order will be called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 and will come into force with immediate effect. 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, the order stated.
Further amending the J&K Development Act, 1970, the order said, the government might on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp commander, can declare an area as “strategic area” within a local area “only for direct operational and training requirement of armed forces”. By amending the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1970 the MHA has also 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. It is to be noted here that J&K is currently under the Central rule. The MHA has further amended the domicile law by allowing “spouse of a domicile” to be deemed a domicile. This was earlier applied only to children of Central government officials posted in J&K for a total period of 10 years.