Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Yousuf Tarigami on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court against a central government notification that allows people from other parts of the country to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir, Live Law reported.

Tarigami, who has already filed a writ petition challenging the abrogation of Article 370 and 45A, urged the court to stay the central notification dated October 26 till his petition is decided.

The petition moved under Article 32 submitted that the Centre’s notification “was illegal” as it was issued in pursuance to the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year, which in itself is “unconstitutional, void and unsustainable” and has been challenged by several people. Article 32 of the constitution empowers citizens to seek judicial remedy when their fundamental rights are violated.

The plea added:

“If the decommissioning or deoperationalising of the Articles 370 and 35A are unconstitutional, it is submitted that the amendments and changes sought to be made vide notification dated 26.10.2020 are also unconstitutional as the Central Government derives power…from Section 96 of the J&K Reorganisation Act that was enacted subsequent to the issuance of Presidential Orders dated 05.08.2019 and 06.08.2019 whereby Articles 370 and 35A were decommissioned”.   

— Yousuf Tarigami to Supreme Court, Live Law

On October 26, the Ministry of Home Affairs introduced sweeping changes to land laws in Jammu and Kashmir by omitting the phrase “permanent resident of the state”. The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020, repealed 12 state laws, including historic land reforms laws, and amended 14 other laws, some of which deal with the sale and purchase of land in Jammu and Kashmir.

Until last year, Indians from other parts of the country were not allowed to buy property in the region. But in August 2019, the Centre scrapped Kashmir’s special status, annulled its separate constitution, split the region into two Union Territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir – and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.

Under the October notification, the government officially ended the protections on land rights guaranteed under Article 35A, paving way for people from other states to purchase land in the region. The new laws also abolished 1950s land reform laws that redistributed large patches of land to landless farmers.

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In his plea, Tarigami also submitted that the amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970, made through the notification, will allow any non-resident to buy agricultural land and to use it for non-agricultural or commercial purpose with the permission of the government.

Tarigami said that such amendments will “seriously change the land use pattern and will destroy the food security of Jammu and Kashmir”, according to PTI.

He submitted that agriculture and allied sectors continue to be the predominant source of livelihood for more than 70% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population and contribute nearly 50% to Gross Domestic State Product, according to The Indian Express.

The erstwhile law had been aimed at protecting the large swathes of farm land, that “provided lifeblood to people of J&K [Jammu and Kashmir], from commercialization”, Tarigami added. He said that this crucial aspect has not been considered the Centre while introducing the changes.

“The present amendment will only create a situation where the said change in land use for commercial purposes is accelerated thereby forcing the people of Kashmir to shift from agriculture.” the Left leader added. “Gradually, Jammu and Kashmir will have to rely on other states for its food demands as agriculture will no longer be preferred, which is not in the best interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Tarigami pleaded that the change of land use cannot be left at the “caprice of bureaucracy more so at the lower rung of district collectors”.