Explained | What do the J&K Land Grants Rules, 2022 entail?

How will the new rules impact the current land owners in Jammu and Kashmir? Who is eligible for lease rights in the Union Territory after the amendment? Why are political parties opposing the new rules?

Updated - December 24, 2022 12:09 pm IST

Published - December 23, 2022 10:30 am IST

The story so far: The J&K Lieutenant Governor’s administration, in the third week of December, notified fresh land rules under J&K Land Grant Rules-2022 and replaced the J&K Land Grants Rules-1960, which dealt with the special rules to grant government land on lease in erstwhile State of J&K. Under the previous rules, prime locations such as Srinagar, Jammu, Gulmarg and Pahalgam were opened up for construction of hotels, commercial structures and residential buildings in the past. These land laws were considered as the backbone of J&K’s upper middle class and allowed a new chain of hotels and commercial structures to come up in prime locations, including places like Pahalgam and Gulmarg over the years. J&K L-G Manoj Sinha, however, argued that amendments were needed because the previous land laws were “regressive”. He also targeted the present land holders as one “who just paid ₹5 to enjoy profit from  ₹100 crore property”. However, local land holders see the move as one which has opened the gateway “to outsiders to buy prime properties in J&K”. 

What do new land laws entail?

According to the new land laws, the leases of current land owners will not be extended in case of their lease expiry. It reads that all leases, except the subsisting or expired residential leases, expired or determined prior to the coming into force of these rules or issued under these rules shall not be renewed and shall stand determined. Unlike the previous up to 99 years of lease, the lease period has been reduced to 40 years. The government has asked the outgoing lease holders to evict properties or else face evictions under the new rules. However, the current land holders termed these rules “exclusive to J&K where the first right to lease-holders has not been granted and revised rates negotiated”.

What is the L-G administration’s plan for lease now?

An expert committee will enlist all properties where lease had ended. It will be e-auctioned afresh. The rules open bidding to “any person legally competent under Section 11 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.” These rules deem a person or an entity in default of Government Revenue accrued to the government under J&K Land Grant Act, 1960 or Government convicted under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 shall not be eligible for participation in the auction.

According to now-repealed land laws, no such land shall be granted on lease to the person, who is not a permanent residence of the State; except where the Government, for the reasons to be recorded, relax this restriction in the interest of industrial or commercial development or in the favour of a registered charitable society.

Who all are eligible for lease rights in J&K after amendments? 

The L-G administration has diversified the use of land on lease to education, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, skill development and development of traditional art, craft, culture and languages. The land could be leased for hydro-electric projects, stadiums, playgrounds, gymnasiums or other recreational purposes. It also included provisions for self-employment or for housing purposes of ex-servicemen, war widows and the families of martyrs, one who has sacrificed his life in the line of duty. In a first, the land could also be used for facilities of migrant workers, buildings and other construction workers.

What will be the immediate impact of the amendments?

The new rules have hundreds of properties open for fresh auction, where outsiders could also participate. The government has not yet released the list of properties where lease has ended. The impact will be of great significance in tourist hotspot Gulmarg, where 56 hotels out of 59 have their leases expired already. Similarly, properties in Pahalgam, Srinagar and Jammu’s Patnitop will go up for auction.

Why are regional parties opposing these amendments? 

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah termed it as “unfortunate and aimed at settling outsiders”. He said the first right to these lease properties “belongs to those who were already settled here”.

PDP leader and hotelier Muhammad Iqbal Tramboo claimed the move is to bring rich outsiders to buy prime property in J&K “at the cost of local businesses and their interests”. Mr. Tramboo expressed fears that no local could participate in the e-auction given the conditions business houses were in due to the uncertain situation of the past 30 years. He said only millionaires from outside will buy these properties and the locals, who hold these properties currently, will be forced to sell their personal properties, including houses, to repay loans raised on these properties. “It will leave seven lakh locals unemployed and will hit Kashmir’s economy badly,” Mr. Tramboo said. 

Kashmir’s two key traders’ bodies, the Jammu Kashmir Hoteliers Club (JKHC) and the Chamber Of Commerce Industry Kashmir (CCIK), said J&K’s economy would come to a grinding halt and urged the L-G to reconsider the decision.

“All the stakeholders are sons of soil and the matter should be looked into through the prism of humanity and personally,” they said, in an appeal to the L-G.

THE GIST
According to the new land laws, the leases of current land owners will not be extended in case of their lease expiry.
The L-G administration has diversified the use of land on lease to education, healthcare, agriculture, tourism, skill development and development of traditional art, craft, culture and languages.
The new rules have hundreds of properties open for fresh auction, where outsiders could also participate. The impact will be of great significance in tourist hotspot Gulmarg, where 56 hotels out of 59 have their leases expired already.
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