The Centre has paved the way for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the Union Territory by amending several laws, more than a year after the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution.
In a gazette notification in Hindi and English, the Ministry of Home Affairs has made several changes to the land laws, including allowing the use of agricultural land for setting up facilities of public purpose.
The announcement was met with jubilation from supporters but was fiercely condemned by regional political parties in the Union Territory.
Here is how the legal changes will take effect on the ground:
Effect of legal amendments
The most important tweak has been made in the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act that deals with disposal of land in the union territory as the Centre has omitted the phrase "permanent resident of the state" from Section 17 of the law. Also, for the first time, a domicile resident's spouse will also be considered a permanent resident of the Union Territory.
Before the repeal of Article 370 and Article 35-A in August last year, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the fresh changes have paved the way for non-residents to buy land in the Union Territory.
However, on Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said in Srinagar that agricultural land has been reserved for farmers and no one will interfere with it. However, the government can authorise an agriculturist to 'alienate' the land to a non-agriculturist for sale, gift or exchange.
"On the areas identified as 'industrial areas', we want good industries to come up here, like in the rest of the country, so that there is progress, development and employment," Sinha said.
The Print quoted a senior government official as saying that non-agricultural land will not be randomly handed over to industries.
"We cannot get polluting and other hazardous industries in this pristine environment," the official told the website, adding that a separate explanatory notification regarding the land laws will be issued soon.
The government has also put in place safeguards to ensure the proper usage of non-agricultural land. According to Times Now, non-agriculturists who have had land transferred to them and who intend to use it for non-agricultural purposes are required to do so within a period of five years. They can, however, seek consent from the government to extend this period for up to two years if they pay a penalty equal to 1 percent of the value of the land.
Property prices in Kashmir are relatively low, although the volatile security situation in the Valley could be a deterrent for those thinking about buying property in the region. According to an article in DNA, Srinagar's property prices are still between Rs 2,200 and Rs 4,000 per sq ft, which are relatively low as compared to other Tier 2 and 3 cities of the country.
Other legal changes
The other major laws repealed by the official notification issued on Tuesday includes the J&K Big Landed Estates (abolition) Act, a landmark act brought in by Sheikh Abdullah that gave land rights to landless tillers.
The JK Alienation of Land Act, 1995, the JK Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1956 and the JK Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1962 were also repealed.
Other laws to be repealed are the J&K Prevention of Fragmentation of Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960; JK Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975; the JK Right of Prior Purchase ACT, 1936 A.D; Section 3 of the J&K Tenancy (Stay of Ejectment Proceedings) Act 1966; the JK Utilisation of Land Act, 2010; and the J&K Underground Utilities (Acquisition of rights of user in Land) Act.
The notification also maintains that government on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander may declare an area as "strategic area" within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act and rules and regulations made thereunder in the manner and to the extent.
With inputs from PTI