The Government of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Prime Minister carried out land reforms in 1950 through Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. The ‘land to tillers’ triggered the question of compensation to the landlords which was not provided in the original Act. This question was left to the Constituent Assembly to decide.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, in November 1951, framed a Committee under Revenue Minister Mirza Afzal Beg to decide this question. In the meanwhile, some landlords went to the High Court, which also favoured the Government view of no compensation.
In March 1952, the Mirza Afzal Beg committee presented its report before the Constituent Assembly. Below is the full transcript of Beg’s speech on the recommendations of the Committee.
Mirza Afzal Beg (Revenue Minister): Mr. President, Section 26 of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act provides that the question of compensation with respect to the land from which expropriation has taken place under the said Act shall be settled by the Constituent Assembly of the State. In the previous session of the Constituent Assembly a Committee was appointed and instructed to ascertain the public opinion and accordingly to examine and report upon the desirability or otherwise of the payment of compensation. The members of the said Committee were elected by the House, they started tours and visited different parts and places of the whole State. Different bodies, organization and men of different interests appeared as witness before the said Committee to express their point of view on the compensation issue. The number of such witness exceeded twenty six thousand. It could not be practicable to record the statement of every individual, but instead the Committee requested groups or persons where the number used to be large, to choose one as their spokesmanand in such public meetings the statement of 65 persons have actually been recorded. Besides, the Committee received memoranda from different Associations and organizations on this issue. The Committee thus after a keen study and careful enquiry into the problem has been able to publish this report which is now on the table of the House.
Before throwing light on the details of this report I take opportunity of thanking all organizations, the press and local individuals, who, by their valuable and apt suggestions have offered co-operation in the work of the Committee. It is only after considering these suggestions and views that we are able to prepare the report which is submitted to your Honour today and I move that the said report be considered. Mr. President, there are two particular views in this behalf one in favour of the payment of compensation to the expropriated landlords and the other against it. Both the views are supported by arguments. The Committee received a written memorandum from the Landlords Association. They also gave oral statements, their representatives argued. These arguments which are in favour of the payment of compensation can be divided into two classes. First as no one can deprive of the right of ownership so the landlords who have been expropriated from the land should adequately be compensated. The second view held is, that depriving a person from the ownership of his inherent property without compensation is not authorized by any law and doing so will denial of all the moral and social obligations. Reference has also been made to the Constitution of India under which payment of fair compensation is obligatory. It has also been argued that the State Land Acquisition Act provides that no lands shall be acquired without payment of compensation.
Besides, many other arguments have been advanced, one among which is that it is not desirable to expropriate those landlords from the land who have purchased it on price consideration. Taking the reference made to the Constitution of India into consideration, it pertains to Part III of the Fundamental Rights of Citizen of this Constitution. It is true that some provisions of this part do make the payment of compensation obligatory. But this part of the Constitution of India is not at all applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We have acceded to India in respect of three subjects only. The provision of Indian Constitution pertaining to these three subjects only can be made applicable in our case. It is thus clear that only some particular sections of this constitution apply to our State. So far as this provision regarding the payment of compensation in the Part III of the said Constitution is concerned, it can in nocase be made applicable to our State. Hence the reference made to it is irrelevant.
Under the provisions of Land Acquisition Act any land can be acquired for public purposes and it is true that this Act provides for payment of compensation. But it is to be understood that the acquisition of land under this Act is for some definite purpose, say for construction of a school building, for construction of roads, or for canals etc. and generally this purpose is governed by some commercial consideration both for the buyer and the seller. We should say that it is strictly speaking a business deal and the abolition of Estates cannot be governed by these considerations. I will again submit to the House that argument which the National Conference and the Government of Kashmir used to advance in respect of abolition of Big Landed Estates was that the private ownership of thousands and lacs of Kanals of land by a few individuals is dangerous not only for a few persons but for the community as a whole; and the only way out is to transfer this land to those who actually till it. These absentee landlords, who owned thousands and lacs of kanals of land, did not utilize such big areas, strictly speaking from the national point of view. Taking this fact in to consideration the Government decided to distribute the land in such a way so that a limited portion should remain with the landlords. I want to make this point clear to the House that in case Magharsingh verses Principal Secretary, which was instituted to get the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act declared ultra-vires, the High Court of this State has held that the Government can make law for the acquisition of land and acquire land under law, that extinction of ownership right can be legal, that the legislature has power to exiting ownership right can be legal, that the legislature has power to extinct ownership without compensation, and that expropriation without compensation is as valid as expropriation with compensation.
To those friends, who have stated before us that taking over of lands without compensation is unreasonable; this decision of our State independent Judiciary is a stout reply.
Keeping aside these objections the questions is whether there is any moral or legal objection for their being compensated. The Committee studied the past history fully. We had to trace the origin of the history of Landlordism, because it was argued from the side of tillers that the lands owned by the big proprietors did originally belong to them and it would be strange to demand compensation from them. They said that they had usurped land form them, it had all been reclaimed by the cultivators and it was they who had cleared the jungles and the woods. They in fact were the owners but some other person became the Proprietor in name. We thus traced the source and origin of such big estates as that of Raja Chinani-Badri Nath who was the proprietor of a vast area.
What were the reasons for their being owners of such large landed estates. After enquiries we came to know that these lacs of kanals of land were granted to them by the Government of the day free of any cost. Under the old Ains No. 5 and 6 the Maharaja had gifted away as many as one lac and 11 thousand acres which in kanals come to 8 lac and 88 thousand. This huge area was granted by way of gifts to big influential persons Under the Pratap Code, which was made applicable to the Jammu Province. 2 lac and 19 thousand kanals of land were granted to a few owners gratis. Similarly, under Raj Tilak Boon 40 lacs and 7 thousand kanals of land were given away free of cost to big influential persons. Under Nautors 19 lacks and 80 thousand kanals of land of land have been bestowed to these big landlords. At the time of the regular demarcation of forests 5 lacks and 36 thousand kanals of land were snatched from the actual cultivators and disturbed among the new maliks. Thus under Ains No’s and 6, the Raj Tilak Boon Pattas and the Forest Department rules 75 lacks and 35 thousand kanals of land have so far been given as gifts. The question arises as to whether the original proprietors were compensated for the land of which they were deprived. This land belonged to the people. It belonged to the country and the community as a whole, and in spite of this fact why have 75 lakhs and 35 thousand kanals of land been distributed free of cost? This policy was adopted intentionally.
The Committee studied the views of different settlement officers and settlement Commissioners. The study of these reports revealed that this policy was persistently being followed and it was due to this policy that the Government officers and influential persons were given lands free of cost. Similarly much land from the Jammu Tehsil was usurped by big officers. In 1907 when Assamies were created in villages of Mirpur and Reasi Tehsils Maharaja issued a proclamation that if any cultivators broke up land in the village it should be considered to have been broken up on behalf on the Assami and should be held by Wahid Assami and not by the Cultivator. Thus in this way thousands of kanals of land were broken up and passed in the possession of such Assamies. The example of Chenani is before you. In 1974 when settlement took place, Mr. Talbout observed that the Raja of Chenani had no proprietary rights in such vast land. The settlement authorities have held that no conqueror could deprive his subjects of their rights. The Raja of Chenani could not be given the proprietary rights of forty seven villages. Quite against this principle the proprietary rights of 47 villages were taken away from the cultivators and given to the Raja of Chenani. Before the enforcement of Big landed Estates Abolition Act, 2007 the Raja of Chenani was an owner of 2 lacs and 30 thousand kanals of land. Diwan Amar Nath and Diwan Dhanpat Rai likewise emerged as big proprietors without payment of any consideration. In this manner under certain items 75 lacs and 36 thousand kanals of land have been bestowed upon the favoured few. No compensation was received for these lands. We only returned this land to the original proprietors whose ancestors did own it. We have distributed only 50 lakhs of such land to the cultivators because in reality it belonged to them. Under these circumstances can there be any moral justification for payment of compensation to these expropriated landlords? The Committee has recorded in its report.
“What was robbed them immorally and what is due to them morally, for that they are being asked to pay to those who got it without morality.”
We are asked to pay compensation to those who have no moral justification. They cannot demand compensation for these 50 thousand kanals of land in so for as this land stands already usurped from the tillers. After a thoughtful deliberation the Committee is of the opinion that the land must be owned by him who tills it. The question was put before the Committee that those persons who got lands by way of rewards from Maharaja may not be compensated, but why should those persons suffer who purchased it against money consideration. In this connection we have to see the benefits derived by those persons who purchased such land ten or twelve years back twenty or thirty thousand. How much rupees and we have also to see as to how much they have spent over it. How much did they pay as land revenue? What profit did they obtain out of the produce of the land. Taking these matters into consideration we have come to this conclusion that those persons who purchased land against cash payment have not only recouped the initial investment on land but have made much more profits there form which exceed the capital and interest thereon. For instance, I will quote an example of Moza Gopalpora where a piece of land against which arrears of land revenue were outstanding was sold to a certain person at Rs.20,000/- in 1992 and up to S. year 2000 he earned Rs.23,000/- by way of income from fruits. It shows that such a large income was earned in seven years only. Today it is S. year 2008 and the prices of fruits have swollen to the highest pitch. You can well imagine the extent of profits which might have accrued to him. These examples clearly show that those lands which have been purchased against money consideration by the owners have yielded enough return to them and as such they need not be compensated. The Committee is also of the opinion that in no case compensation should be awarded.
Besides one of our Hon’ble colleagues, Wazir Ram Saran Das, who is himself a big land owner feels that in case of expropriated owners who are not able to drive sufficient maintenance from 182 kanals of land, a grant of maintenance allowance should be considered. His view is that widows, minors, infirm people or the affected land owners of inferior kinds of land which do not yield sufficient return, deserve special consideration; and though in principle nobody is entitled to compensation as such this category of land owners may be granted additional maintenance allowance. If maintenance is granted to such minors or infirm persons, the retention of 182 kanals of land by them will be a share waste, because they cannot utilize it as they ought to. Besides this, all the members of the committee agree that no compensation be given to the landlords.
This report did not bear the signatures of Mr.Ghulam Ahmad of Salar and Pt. Janki Nath of Achhable due to their absence at that time. But when the report was put before them, they fully agreed that no compensation be given. Some members of this Committee like Mir Ghulam Ahmad of Salar, were themselves big proprietors. Mr. Ghulam Ahamd owns big land and some of his land which comes within the purview of this Law amounts to about six thousand kanals.
Similarly, Wazir Ram Saran Das was also a big landlord, his land has been distributed among tillers under the said Law. He does not tolerate that any compensation be paid to landlords (Cheers).
So far as the opinion of landlord members is concerned, I attach more importance to their personal experience by virtue of which they say that there is no justification for payment of any compensation to landlords. Sir, we have today submitted this report before you. I am glad that the committee has taken into consideration the fact that 50 lac kanals of land have been taken away from about 9 or 10 thousand men and distributed among 7 ½ lac tillers.
It is gratifying to note that expropriated Landlords include Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and the tillers among whom this land has been distributed include people of every class and religion. The maximum benefit of his step has gone to Harijans (cheers).
It was considered a sin even to enter the name of member of this downtrodden class (of (Harijans) in the “Khatooni”, order Revenue papers. But by this revolutionary step the people belonging to this class have become in proprietors of lacs of kanals of land (Cheers).
Demanding compensation from these poverty-stricken people and bestowing it upon men like Dewan Sahib and Raja of Chenani bears no moral justification. In a village at Sopore, the villagers wanted to build a Mosque but the land upon which they wanted to construct it belonged to a Chakdar and thus they could not get a piece of land for this holy task. Is it reasonable now to demand compensation from these poor men and hand over the same to men like Diwan Sahib?
The Committee, during its course of investigation, have also taken into consideration the question of Religious Institutions. Big pieces of land were dedicated to these Institutions and many such Institutions that belong to Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Bodhas render considerable help to the cause of culture, education and human progress. As a result of the Abolition Law the income is sure to be reduced. After all these are important social institutions and religion is an important aspect of human life. The income, which accrued out of the lands attached to Religious Institutions, is exploited to a considerable extent. Many examples can be cited in this behalf. It is clear that this income is appropriated for personal use and the real purposes under which these lands were dedicated to the institutions are not fulfilled. But the sacredness of these institutions is of great importance to our society. Sir, the committee in its report, has recommended that as a matter of principle no compensation be given for such lands, but considering the social importance of such institutions, an adhoc Committee should be appointed under Rules and Regulations of this House, to consider separately the question of their maintenance and administration and submit its report about the same. Entrance to many places of worship being restricted or limited, this adhoc committee will have to investigate into the question of betterment of their administration. So, this House will appoint a special adhoc committee to solve the question of religious institutions. With these words I submit the report of the Committee and move that the same be taken into consideration. I also thank Pt. Ram Chandra, Secretary to the Committee who has discharged his services fully well in making out programmes regarding statements of witnesses and complying with other official requisites. We were fully benefited with his knowledge and experience about land.
At this stage, the President of the Constituent Assembly, G.M. Sadiq invited the Members of the House to speak in favour or against the report. Below is transcript of speeches of the Members: