Uttarakand High Court holds ban on buying land by outsiders as unconstitutional

Dehra Dun : In what could have long term ramifications for the people of the state, a division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court comprising Chief Justice Barin Ghosh and Justice U C Dhyani today held as unconstitutional the ban imposed by the Uttarakhand government on outsiders purchasing agricultural land measuring more than 250 sq metres in a public interest litigation filed by Sarvesh Kumar and Manoj Kumar, both residents of Kashipur.

Pindar Valley - Photo by: Ravinder Makhaik

Following the judgment any person, who is a citizen of India will be able to purchase 12.5 acres of agricultural land, as permissible under the Land Ceiling Act, as the bench felt that what was wrong if a person from outside the state wants to carry out agricultural activities.

Incidentally, the adjoining hill state of Himachal Pradesh, under section 118 of the Land Tenancy Act, even prohibits Himachalis not possessing agricultural, from buying land in the state.

While a section of the population, keen on selling their land holdings because of the exorbitant prices of land in this tiny mountain state, are happy over the ruling, for buyers who were currently shying away from purchasing land because of the ban will now come in large numbers.

“There are a number of real state developers and colonizers, keen to set up colonies in the hill tracts of the state, who will now purchase large chunks of land as the ban has been lifted”, said Sardar Partap Singh Parwana.

But the important question that is whether the local population will be able to survive after selling their land holdings, as there is not much for them to fall back upon.

Further the production of agricultural produce is also likely to fall sharply as there are fears that the agricultural land will be diverted for other purposes, mostly for construction and partly for industrial (resorts) purposes.

It may be recalled that that former chief minister Narayan Dutt Tewari had imposed a ceiling on the purchase of agricultural land on Sept 12, 2003 and those who did not have agricultural land could not buy more than 500 sq metres.

This area was subsequently reduced to 250 sq metres by chief minister B C Khanduri during his first tenure in 2007.

However, a senior bureaucrat, on conditions of anonymity told Hill Post that ban or no ban, the damage that had to be done in the hills has already been done.

“Even before this hill state came into existence on 9 Nov 2000, there was a lot of talk that a ban would be imposed on outsiders buying land in the state. Consequently almost all land along the Ganga and Yamuna, ideal for building resorts, hotels or rafting clubs were bought by outsiders before the hill state was officially formed and even later on the buying spree continued, as the ban was imposed only in 2003, which gave a lot of scope for realtors to invest in land in the state”, he pointed out.

Meanwhile advocate genera; S N Babulkar said that the state had yet to receive a copy of the order, and when it was received it would be studied minutely and various aspects taken into consideration, and if felt necessary, the state government will knock the doors of the Supreme Court.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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