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Uttarakhand HC asks govt whether it is mulling ban on outsiders purchasing agricultural land

The division bench of acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari said it has also been highlighted in a media report that the time has come to re-look at the land reforms by restricting outsiders from purchasing agricultural land in the state.

dehradun Updated: Aug 23, 2018 09:23 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Uttarakhand HC,agricultural land,outsiders
Uttarakhand High Court at Nainital.(HT File Photo)

The Uttarakhand high court has directed the state government to file its response on whether “it is contemplating to prohibit outsiders from purchasing agricultural land in Uttarakhand”.

The HC gave these directions on Tuesday while taking suo moto cognisance of the alleged rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in Uttar Kashi.

The division bench of acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari said it has also been highlighted in a media report that time has come to re-look at the land reforms by restricting outsiders from purchasing agricultural land in the state.

“There is a reference to Section-118 of Himachal Land Reforms and Tenancy Act which restricts outsiders from buying land in the hill state. Residents of the area (Uttar Kashi) have also demanded to take stringent action against culprits”, the HC order said.

The division bench also asked the counsels how much land outsiders can buy at present in the state. The state replied that people from outside the state can buy a limited amount of land. In case, they want to buy more, they need to take a special permission from the government.

What the existing laws say

The state government had enacted an adapted and amended version of the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act in 2003 to stop the exploitation of agricultural land in rural areas. People from outside the state could buy only 500 sq meter of agricultural land for residential purposes, and the cap was later reduced to 250 sq meters in 2007.

In case the land is being bought for commercial purposes, special permission from the state government needs to be taken, while in case the land is being bought for agricultural and horticultural use, permission is required from the district magistrate.

However, in September 2011, the HC struck down the land reforms in the state under which outsiders were prohibited from buying more than 250 square meters of agriculture land. A division bench of HC ruled that all the citizens of the country would now be able to purchase up to 12.5 acres of agriculture land in the state under the Land Ceiling Act.

After this, the state government challenged the HC ruling in the Supreme Court, arguing that only 12% of land in the hilly state was agricultural land. In October 2011, the apex court stayed the HC order under which it had cancelled the ceiling imposed by the state government on agricultural land that could be bought in the state.

Concerns on exploitation of limited agricultural land

Earlier this year, in the run-up to the expansion of urban local bodies with the addition of adjoining rural areas within their limits, many activists had also demanded stringent rules to save village land that would fall under city areas. Members of Hamara Uttarakhandjan Manch (HUM) had urged chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to introduce rules on the lines of Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, to check exploitation of land by outsiders.

In June this year, while expressing serious concern over the menace of unauthorised construction having attained alarming proportions in the state, the high court had directed the state government not to permit the use of land recorded in revenue records as agricultural land to be converted for group housing complexes taking into consideration the acute shortage of farming land in Uttarakhand.

First Published: Aug 23, 2018 00:42 IST