Center puts spanner in Himachal land ceiling exemption bill

Shimla: Having bought land in excess of HP Ceiling on Land Holding laws and even having got an amendment bill passed for the state assembly for being exempted for the state land holding laws, the contentious bill has been objected to by the central government.

Information obtained under RTI revealed that the HP Ceiling of Land Holdings (Amendment) Bill 2012 (Bill No 28 of 2012) has been objected to union agriculture ministry and ministry of environment and forestry (MoEF).

The bill passed by the HP Assembly and reserved by the Governor for the consideration of President pertains to the socio-religious organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, Dera Baba Jaimal Singh Beas, Punjab being granted exemption for holding land in excess of what is permissible under the state land ceiling laws.

The organization is said to be in ownership and possession of over 1360 bighas of land at various places in the state. A case about violations of state land laws by the organization is also pending before the HP High Court.

The objections raised by the union agriculture ministry are that transfer of precious agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes should not be allowed and MoEF has raised a red flag about transfer of forest lands should not be permitted.

Though there are several religious bodies on the lookout for large tracts of land in the state and in fact several local deities were forced to surrender land to the government under the HP Land Ceiling Act 1972, but the Dhumal led pervious BJP government made an exception for the Radha Soami Beas organization by enacting the bill.

The bill, if consented to by the President of India, will incorporate the amendment in the 7th Schedule of the constitution, turning into a law that would be kept outside the purview of the courts.

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