CPI(M) Leader Tarigami Moves SC Challenging Order Allowing Non-Locals To Buy Land in J&K

The application sought the apex court's intervention and a stay on the October 26 order affecting a new land policy until the petitions challenging the changes to the region's constitutional status are heard.

New Delhi: Veteran CPI (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Union home ministry order which allows people from across the country to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir, including that meant for agricultural purposes.

According to LiveLaw, the application was moved in the writ petition which challenges the changes made to Jammu and Kasmir’s constitutional status by the Centre on August 5, 2019. The application sought the apex court’s intervention and a stay on the October 26 order affecting a new land policy until the petition is heard.

The petition moved under Article 32 (violation of fundamental rights) submitted that the October notification “is illegal” as it is issued in pursuance to the August 2019 reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir which has been challenged by several people and that the top court is aware of the matter.

News agency PTI reported that the application states that the home ministry has amended sections of the Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act, 1996 which pertains to management of agricultural land and the JK Development Act, 1970 which deals with zonal development plans determining land use for buildings, roads housing recreation, industry, business, markets, schools, hospitals and public and private open spaces.

Pointing out the amendments in the Act, the petition said that while the fresh laws prohibits the sale of agricultural land to a non-agriculturist, but it “authorises the government or an officer appointed by it to grant permission to an agriculturist to alienate the land to a non-agriculturist by way of sale, gift, exchange or mortgage or for such agreement on such conditions as may be prescribed”.

Tarigami pleaded that the change of land use can’t be left at the “caprice of bureaucracy more so at the lower rung of district collectors” and said the checks and balances available in the repealed laws need reintroducing in them.

The four-time MLA from Kulgam pleaded that these amendments will “seriously change the land use pattern and will destroy the food security of Jammu and Kashmir”.

He said the laws of the erstwhile state government on land were aimed at protecting the large swathes of farm land that provided life blood to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, from commercialisation.

“This crucial aspect has not been considered by the respondents (the home ministry) while issuing the notification,” the petition said.

In an 111-page notification in Hindi and English, the home ministry made several changes to the land laws, including the most important amendment in the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act that deals with disposal of land with the Centre omitting the phrase “permanent resident of the state” from Section 17 of the law.

According to LiveLaw, Tarigami’s submission says that the Instrument of Accession empowers the Central government to prefer orders relating to defence, external affairs, communications and other ancillary matters. However, matters relating to land use, transfer thereof and the broader matters relating to revenue were well within the powers of the state until the August 5, 2019 changes.

Before the dilution of Article 370 and Article 35-A in August last year, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir. The latest changes have paved the way for non-residents to buy land in the union territory.

It, therefore, contends that the October 26 order of the home ministry is illegal as it has been issued in pursuance to powers accorded to the Centre under a statute which itself is “unconstitutional, void and unsustainable and therefore liable to be struck down”.

The application concludes:

“If the decommissioning or deoperationalising of the Articles 370 and 35A are unconstitutional, it is submitted that the amendments and changes sought to be made vide notification dated 26.10.2020 are also unconstitutional as the Central Government derives power…from Section 96 of the J&K Reorganisation Act that was enacted subsequent to the issuance of Presidential Orders dated 05.08.2019 and 06.08.2019 whereby Articles 370 and 35A were decommissioned”.

The notification evoked angry reactions from mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, which termed the move an attempt by the Centre to “put Jammu and Kashmir up for sale”.

(With PTI inputs)