The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday repealed the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 with immediate effect, saying that it “failed to realise the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions”.
The government ordered the cancellation of all pending applications seeking transfer of ownership of state land to unauthorised occupants subject to the payment of land cost fixed by the state government. However, the decision will not be implemented in cases where ownership of land has already been transferred under the legislation — also called the Roshni Act.
“All pending proceedings under the Act shall stand cancelled immediately and abate,” an official release said. “However, the SAC (State Administrative Council) directed that any action taken under the provisions of the repealed Act shall not be invalid,” it said. The Roshni Act was enacted in 2001 by the the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress-PDP coalition government with the twin objective of generating resources for power projects and to confer proprietary rights to occupants of state land subject to payment of land cost fixed by the government.
The Act initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals of state land to occupants, but only 15.85 per cent of it was approved for vesting of ownership rights. “Against the expected revenue from such occupants, the funds actually generated had been meagre thereby failing to realise the objective of the scheme,” a release said.
The decision came at an SAC meeting chaired by Governor Satya Pal Malik and attended by his advisers, B B Vyas, K Vijay Kumar, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai and K K Sharma, besides Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and Umang Narula, Principal Secretary to the Governor.
The decision comes nearly a fortnight after the J&K High Court restrained beneficiaries from selling or conducting any transaction with respect to the land transferred to them under the Roshni Act. A PIL was filed by Ankur Sharma, an advocate and chairman of Ikkjutt Jammu, who saw a conspiracy to change the demography of pre-dominantly Hindu inhabited areas of Jammu region.
While the SAC cited the pending PIL and the High Court order to justify the decision, the demand to repeal Roshni Act gained momentum after then CM Mehbooba Mufti on February 14 ordered that the tribal population not be dislocated until formulation of a formal tribal policy. Mufti’s order came in the wake of complaints from nomadic Gujjars and Bakerwals about undue harassment due to continued eviction drives by the forest department.