The Central Government has introduced amendments to 12 laws to enable all Indian citizens outside the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. Now Kashmir is for all Indians.
Prior to the repealing of Articles 35A and 370 of the Constutition on August 5, 2019, only persons resident in the erstwhile State could buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. They had to have a domicile certificate to prove they were residents of and thus subjects of the state.
Now by a notification in the gazette, the Centre has omitted the phrase “permanent resident of the State“ from 17 of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act 1970 which deals with disposal of land in the Union Territory.
Section 17(1) (b) of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act 1970 provided:
Disposal of land by the Authority
Subject to any direction given by the Government under this Act, the Authority may dispose of any such land after undertaking or carrying out such development as it thinks fit, to permanent residents of the state in such manner and subject to such terms and conditions as it considers expedient for securing the development of the area according to plan.
The words ‘permanent residents of the state’ have been removed paving the way for any Indian to acquire land in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Effectively, Indians, who live outside Jammu and Kashmir, are now eligible and no longer refrained from buying land in Jammu and Kashmir, subject only to certain conditions.
Powers under Section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 have been invoked by the Centre to notify amendments to the Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act 1996, the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 and the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970.
The order that has introduced these changes has been termed the Union Territory of J&K Reorganization (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020.
But the farming land in the Union Territory is protected and cannot be sold to or owned by non-farmers or non-agriculturalists. The Centre has introduced a general prohibition on the transfer for agricultural land to non-agriculturists under the Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act, 1996.
“Ït is a unifier for our family. My daughter-in-law’s family was divided between J&K and Punjab (Rajpura) and despite their being some tragic deaths in the family, they could not move to Jammu. Now it is possible for them to sell all there and move closer to their loved ones in Jammu” an ecstatic Sandeep Dogra told BT from Jammu.
However, if such transfer is for a charitable trust, for promoting education or healthcare, for notified public purposes etc (Sections 133H to 133K), it may be possible to do so.
The Union government has also imposed a bar on the use and transfer of any grazing land for other purposes through Section 133B of the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996, except with the permission of the District Collector.
These new amendments are the logical next step after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution last year. Some experts believe this move to be the next step towards total integration of Jammu and Kashmir with rest of the country.