The Union Ministry of Home Affairs in a gazette notification announced new land laws, ending the exclusive rights of locals over the land, granted under the now abrogated Article 370. The phrase ‘permanent resident of the state’ in the Act that deals with disposal of land in the Union Territory has been omitted from Section 17 of the law, allowing non-residents to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir including for setting up industries and health care facilities. The new J&K Development Act includes the permission of the use of agricultural land for setting up facilities of public purpose.
Article 370 gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, conferring it with the power to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state. This article, along with Article 35A, defined that the Jammu and Kashmir state's residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to residents of other Indian states. Before the repeal of Article 370 and Article 35A in August 2019, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir.
The abrogation of the Act has drawn sharp criticism from various political parties and leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, except the BJP. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted: “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 and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale and the poorer small land holding owners will suffer.”
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet said, “Yet another step that's part of GOI's nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources and finally putting land in J&K up for sale.”
She adds: “After failing on all fronts to provide roti & rozgar to people, BJP is creating such laws to whet the appetite of a gullible electorate. Such brazen measures reinforce the need of people of all three provinces of J&K to fight unitedly.”
Some of the features of the new law:
• The new laws end the exclusive rights of permanent residents over land in J&K
• People as well as investors outside the Union Territory can purchase land now
• There will be a bar on agriculture land to be used for non-agricultural purposes
• Land can be transferred in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of healthcare or senior secondary or higher specialised education
The MHA said that the new order will be called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020, and that it comes into force with immediate effect.