J&K: Lt Governor launches portal to redress property disputes of Kashmiri migrants
The Union Territory Administration in Jammu and Kashmir has opened up Pandora’s box by launching an online portal, http://jkmigrantrelief.nic.in for time-bound redressal of grievances related to Kashmir migrants’ immovable properties.
The much-needed initiative was launched by Lt-Gov Manoj Sinha in Srinagar on Tuesday in the presence of senior administrative secretaries.
Speaking on the occasion Lt-Gov Manoj Sinha said, “this initiative will put an end to the plight of the migrants including Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, who have been suffering since the 1990s”. I met numerous delegations from across the religion in the last 13 months and they unequivocally supported the return of migrants.
The cases under J&K Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 were neither properly enumerated nor contested.
It is the responsibility of the present to rectify the mistakes of the past. While laying the foundation for a bright future, this is also the time to heal the old wounds. I request all citizens to support the administration in this effort and set the new example of brotherhood.
At the peak of militancy in Kashmir valley more than 60,000 families, the majority of them were Kashmiri pandits, were forced by the prevailing circumstances to leave their homes and hearths and shifted to safer locations to save their lives.
Lt-Gov Manoj Sinha said out of these 60,000 families approximately 44,000 families registered themselves. Out of these 40142 were Hindu migrant families, 2684 were Muslim families and 1730 were Sikh families.
To sustain themselves in places outside Kashmir valley, a large number of them had to forcibly sell their properties at marginal rates.
Meanwhile, several properties were forcibly occupied and snatched away as Kashmiri migrants stayed away from Kashmir for a longer duration and feared returning to their homes and hearths for fear of getting trapped.
Migrants whose Properties were encroached or were forced for distress sale in the 1990s can file complaints.
The decision to design a portal was taken after the administrative council headed by Lt- Gov Manoj Sinha on August 13 had approved the proposal of the Revenue Department to confer powers of Commissioners upon the Deputy Commissioners of Kashmir Division under the Agrarian Reforms Act.
The Department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction was further directed to develop an online portal for facilitating migrants to apply for correction of records, demarcation, and removal of encroachments and alienation by way of fraud or distress. The disposal of such applicants has also been made time-bound under the Public Services Guarantee Act.
Sharing further details, Lt-Gov Manoj Sinha said, during the trial run period of the portal, we have received 854 grievances. It clearly shows a large number of migrant families were awaiting justice. Now, the time-bound action on complaints will not only restore the faith of people in the system but I believe thousands of families will achieve closure, justice, and regain their dignity.
In order to address this issue, on 2nd June 1997 an Act namely “The Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection, and Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, 1997” was enacted. This Act provided preservation, protection, and restraint on distress sales of the immovable property of the migrants.
Under this Act, the concerned District Magistrate was designated as a Custodian of the migrant properties. The Act provides for certain restrictions to prevent distress sale, custody of immovable property, eviction of unauthorized occupants, the implementation by the competent authority, etc.
The implementation of this Act, however, was a non-starter and replete with instances of non-performance. Despite various provisions, numerous instances of distress sale and alienation by different means have been reported. The cases under J&K Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 were neither properly enumerated nor contested.
Ex-parte decisions were taken, and non-migrants have been shown as prospective owners. Even in some cases, the tenancy has been created by showing non-existing tenants since 1971 by way of fraud/ cheating, which was not permissible under Section 13 of the said Act.
It is important to mention here that from 2018-19, to 2020-21 (July), the office of Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner received approximately 113 grievances. Instances have come to notice particularly when in pursuance of the orders of the Hon’ble High Court in OWP No. 477/2016 dated 06.03.2020 titled “All India Kashmiri Samaj and Ors. V/s Union of India and Ors.” directing diarization of complaints and monitoring thereof, that immovable property of migrants has been alienated without following due process.
The government in March 2020 took the first step in the direction to address this abysmal state of affairs by doing away with the need for a written complaint by the aggrieved for the competent authority to enumerate and evict unauthorized occupants. By virtue of S.O. 1229 (E) dated 31.03.2020 (Adaptation of State Laws) Order 2020, the requirement of written complaints for survey or measurement of a migrant property, provision 2 of sub-section (2) of Section 6 has been omitted.
In order to redress the grievances of the migrants and restore the properties to their rightful owners, the Lt Governor directed further action by the department. Subsequently, a notification, S.O. 275 dated 13.08.2021 was issued whereby the powers of Commissioner under Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 have been conferred upon the Deputy Commissioners. The involvement of senior-level functionaries, exclusively for the avowed purpose under the ARA 1976, is expected to bring requisite force and focus.
Also, instructions under Section 10 of the J&K Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection, and Restraint on Distress Sale) Act, 1997 have been issued for preservation and protection of immovable property of the migrants, vide Government Order No. 53-JK-(Rev) of 2021 dated 13.08.2021.
The instruction provided for launching an online portal to receive complaints about the correction of records/ demarcation and removal of encroachments/ trespassing/ alienation by way of fraud or distress sale, etc.
The instruction clearly states that any violation of the Act, including in respect of religious properties, shall be taken cognizance by the competent authority with timely action for eviction, custody, and restoration of such properties and also action under law against the violators.
The revenue officers have been instructed to dispose of such cases on priority, with due consideration to the circumstances and specificity, while taking decisions with regard to the limitation period.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.