A. A. Latief- U -Zaman. Dava
SRINAGAR, DECEMBER, 22 :
The State land situated in Srinagar city & its suburbs within a radius of 16 KMs from Shergarhi, 13 KMs from Purani Mandi in Jammu City & Its suburbs, all Towns (Municipal Councils), Notified Areas (Municipal Committees) & other areas notified by the Govtt from time to time, excepting the particulars of land therefrom transferred by the Govtt to Srinagar Development Authority, Jammu Development Authority and other Deptts/ Organisations, is administered under J&K Land Grants Act 1960 & rules made thereunder from time to time for allotment on lease basis, by auction On payment of premium as determined & assessed, for residential, Commercial, industrial, Educational, Scientific & other specified purposes. On expiry of the period of lease the Govtt has right of re-entry for purposes of determining it (lease). Under The J&K Land Grants Rules 1960 ( Now repealed) the period of lease initially was 40 years and on expiry thereof renewable for a further period of 40 years but the maximum period of lease not to exceed 99 years.
With the coming into force of The J&K Land Grants Rules 2022 all leases granted under repealed J&K land Grant Rules 1960 & Notified Area ( All Development Authorities set in Tourism Sector) Land Grants Rules 2007, other than subsisting or expired leases allotted for residential purposes, stand determined & not to be renewed signaling as death knell for the commercial ventures & tourism industry having come up on the leased lands on the strength of Statutorily guaranteed renewal options for promotion of the industry otherwise no sane person, in face of the availability of the proprietary lands, would have opted for the Nazool/State land on payment of premium almost equivalent to the market rates and payment of rentals for entire lease period of 99 years.
Land for industries
Under J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy 2021,notified vide Govtt order No 65-IND of 2021 Dated 24.03.2021, the period of lease for allotable land to the investors is initially 40 years & extendable to 99 years. If the fate of the Statutorily sanctified dispensation is what has heralded in the form of J&K Land Grants Rules 2022 who is going to believe in an unelected executive driven administrative order which too can be at some stage brought to naught or dovetailed, on the principles of uniformity, with its counter part relating to the Nazool/ State lands foreclosing in the process the prospects for investments in UT for good with the difference that under former category the affectees are erstwhile permanent residents of the UT and under latter all desirous investors whether hailing from UT of J&K or rest of the Country whose nightmares might have begun to hallucinate them after finding as to how the native entrepreneurs and investors stand divested of the Statutorily guaranteed option of renewal thereby prolonging the gestation periods beyond redemption for outcomes commensurate with the investments. The same investment elsewhere in the country may fetch spectacular returns on continuous basis without any scope for mid term somersaults of the Govtt thereby infusing the elements of chaotic uncertainties but presently regrets in this behalf galore in JK unless on the basis of industrial policy 2021 the draconian & ill conceived provisions of Rules 2022 are revised.
Nazool land in perspective
The use of State ( Nazool) land through allotments in Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam & Jammu has its origin in the policy of the ruling Dogra dynasty aiming at resource generation & promotion of tourism sector. While the administration persuaded affluent families for coming forward to invest in creating infrastructure related to tourism in Kashmir valley on land offered to them on premium payable in one go & annual rents during the period the leases subsisted , others with services background or affinity with the ruling class got Nazool land in Srinagar & Jammu for residential purposes at concessional rates of Nazranna (Premium) . The endeavours for creation of tourism related infrastructure through investments in an uncertain political era, before partition of the sub- continent, necessitated guaranteed use of land for longer spells and as such provisions for grant of leases initially for 40 years and extendable to 99 years. Neither at the inception it would have happened nor at present any entrepreneur or an investor would come forward for investing in a place like JK riddled as it is with uncertainties about the approach the elected Govtt may adopt after impending elections to the legislative Assembly viz policy decisions taken during central rule unless investment friendly atmosphere was/is assured with guaranteed incentives and adequate period of lease capable of providing commensurate returns on the investments. Notice of the veritable reality unfolds that the tourism industry is broadly seasonal in the temperate regions of the UT leaving Jammu, Kata & Patnitop as the only round the year destinations primarily owing to the footfall of over 10 million pilgrims & tourists to Mata Vishnau Devi Temple in Katra. The existence of rules Svt 1962 specifically applicable to Srinagar & Gulmarg, subsequently framing of another set of rules for allotment of Land at Gulmarg & Pahalgam and later on The Rules for Grant of lands in J&K for Building Purposes establish beyond doubt that the periodicity of leases along with the maximum period of 99 years was fixed not only as a confidence building measure for investors but also realisation of the pitfalls the shorter terms could have on the sustainability followed by profitability of the business ventures. Before 1947 the leases in British India and Indian States followed the aforementioned format and continued to be so even in free India with the improvisation of converting the leases into free hold rights either before completion of the maximum period of lease on payments to be assessed on the basis of principles laid down or options weighed for vesting in the lessee in perpetuity after completion of the maximum period of lease by the lessee which solitarily has lent credible dependence on the use of Nazool lands for commercial and industrial ventures. The window for renewal of the lease hold rights guaranteed under the law at the option of the lessor can’t be done away with arbitrarily by him (lessor) before expiry of 99 years more so for fresh leases in favour of a new class for identical purposes of use. In fact the lacuna in the law about disposal of the land after completion of the maximum period of 99 years of lease ought to have been addressed either by vesting free from encumbrances in perpetuity the land in the lessee or introducing the concept of beginning of fresh allotments on payment of premium not less than the market potential of the land based on rates fixed for stamp duty in alienations of land for Estates concerned before the registering authorities. The latter option may sound to be draconian & anti public defying logic & Jurisprudential affirmation without a parallel in rest of the country. In Srinagar & Jammu Development Authorities and JK Housing Board the proprietary rights or lease hold rights in perpetuity on leased land vest in the lessees sans fresh premium or premium related charges after completion of the stipulated lease periods which corresponds with the dispensations available in rest of the country. In apartments, dwelling units and associated commercial sites raised by Co- operatives & the private building concerns, the allottees get lease hold rights in perpetuity free from encumbrances.
Persons affected have genuine expectations from the system, committed for bridging the distances between Delhi & J&K for forging harmonious relationship, who need be heardw without pre- conceived notions.
The Author is former Chairman J&K PSC & can be reached on email@example.com