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Gujarat version of Kashmir's Article 370 becomes more stringent

This Act is in force in places notified as communally sensitive areas in the state, including in Ahmedabad and Vadodara

Tuesday July 9, 2019 11:26 AM, IANS

Gujarat Disturbed Area Act

Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Assembly on Monday passed an amendment bill to the Disturbed Areas Act with the ruling BJP introducing more stringent provisions against transfer of properties in it, contending that this was needed to plug loopholes in the law.

The bill was passed by the BJP majority in the House while the Congress MLAs opposed it, arguing that the ruling party was targeting a certain community - more directly Muslims.

The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991, better known as Disturbed Areas Act, bans the sale of property by the member of one religious community to that of another without the approval of the district collector.

This Act is in force in places notified as communally sensitive areas in the state, including in Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

The amendment bill, moved by in-charge Revenue Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, provides for expanding the word "transfer" to include sale, gift, exchange, lease or taking possession of the property by way of power of attorney.

Chudasama insisted that there was no political motive behind this amendment bill. He said many people with "malafide intentions" were found to be unlawfully acquiring properties in disturbed areas through power of attorney or by adding their names in the revenue records without taking consent of the collector as mandated by the Act.

"By adopting illegal methods, many people were found to be forcibly getting lawful residents to sell properties out of fear or pressure. We want to stop this," he said.

The Minister said besides ensuring that transfer of property was fair and with proper consents, the District Collector could also check if there was any "likelihood of polarisation", "disturbance in demographic equilibrium" or any "likelihood of improper clustering of persons of a community" if the transfer took place.

According to the amendment bill, the collector can reject the application of transfer after making assessment on these grounds and the aggrieved person can now file an appeal with the state government against the collector's order. This provision was not there in the existing Act.

The bill proposes imprisonment between three and five years along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh or 10 per cent of the value of the property, whichever is higher, to prevent illegal acquisition of properties in such areas.

Besides, the government could constitute a Monitoring and Advisory Committee to keep a check on the demographic structure in the disturbed areas.

The committee can also advise the collector about various issues regarding the implementation of the Act.

"The bill allows forming a special investigation team (SIT) to assist the state government in deciding any area to be notified a disturbed one. It will also assist the Monitoring and Advisory Committee in gathering necessary information," Chudasama added.

Congress MLAs, led by Imran Khedawala from Ahmedabad, opposed the amendment bill alleging that it aimed at targeting people from a certain religion.

"The Disturbed Areas Act is similar to Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir where outsiders could not buy property. On the one hand the BJP is keen to repeal Article 370, but here it makes it more stringent. Why this double standard," Khedawala asked.

The Congress lawmaker went on to assert that this legislation was made out of fear that the population of one particular religious community will outgrow the others.

"This Act violates our constitutional right to buy property anywhere we want," he added.

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