Author: Zuba Parvez Bubere
LL.M, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
BASIC OVERVIEW OF THE ACT:
The Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act, popularly known as “The Disturbed Areas (DA) Act, was enacted in the year 1986. However, the same was replaced by a new Act in 1991. The said Act is also addressed by other names, viz. “The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property Act” and “Provisions for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act”. It was introduced in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The provisions of the said Act are now applicable in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Himmatnagar, Godhra, Kapadvanj and Bharuch. The said Act was brought into existence due to consecutive, large-scale riots that the city of Ahmedabad experienced back in the 1980s; as a result of which sale of properties in the city was severely affected. One of the main objectives sought to be achieved through the Act was to keep a check on communal polarization of various parts of the State. The Act has been amended in the years 2010 and 2019 respectively.
Based upon the historical background of a city, the Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 empowers the District Collector to notify a particular area in the above-mentioned cities/ towns in the State of Gujarat as a “disturbed area”. When a notification recognizes an area as a “disturbed area”, any kind of immovable property located in the said area can be transferred only after the District Collector, authorized under the Act, expressly consents to the said transfer between the buyer and the seller in the form of his signature. On the contrary, if any property in the notified area is transferred without the express permission of the District Collector, such an action would invite imprisonment and fine.
Despite the good intent behind the Act, the provisions of the said legislation has been criticized on the ground that it is discriminatory in nature. It has been alleged that the motive remains to drive away the Muslim residents from areas that record sustenance of mixed population. It is claimed that the provisions of the Act encourages ghettoization of the Muslim community in the State of Gujarat. It is also believed by a portion of the masses including some social activists that the DA Act through the said notifications attempts to impose its provisions.
Bhupendrasinh Chaudasama, the Revenue Minister of Gujarat has made statements disclosing the fact that some people with mala fide intentions have been dealing with properties in the 'Disturbed Areas' through illegal means and modes.
One intelligent move that is being adopted by those interested in transfer of properties is to escape the DA Act by registering the property under the Registration Act, 1908. Registration under the Registration Act, 1908 does not require the sanction of the District Collector. There have been cases of coercion which throws light on the ambiguity and shortcomings in the legislation.
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS AND ANTICIPATED POTENTIAL IMPACT:
In order to encounter such illegal transfer of properties, it is anticipated that the proposed Amendments will bring in certain significant changes.
● Establishment of a Special Investigating Team:
One of the prime proposals in the Bill focuses on cases which create suspicion with respect to the presence of polarization or improper clustering due to the transfer of immovable property. In an event where such a suspicion is raised, the District Collector is empowered to form a special team in the form of a Special Investigation Team to investigate into the aspects of the alleged offence in the following manner:
⮚ In areas where a Municipal Corporation functions, the special team shall consist of the District Collector, the Police Commissioner and the Municipal Commissioner.
⮚ In all other areas, the special tea shall comprise of the District Collector, the Superintendent of Police and the Regional Municipal Commissioner.
● Penal Provisions for Violation:
The proposed Amendment intends to curb the menace by introducing punishment in the form of five years imprisonment or fine not less than one lakh or ten percent of the value derived based on the jantry of the property.
● Compulsory annexing of Affidavit:
In case of sale of an immovable property, the seller is obliged to annex an Affidavit containing that the sale represents his/her free volition and that he/she has acquired a fair value in exchange of the sale transaction.
● Amendment under the Registration Act, 1908:
In order to address the issue with respect to transfers under the Registration Act to escape the provisions of the Disturbed Areas Act, the Bill proposes to enhance the scope of the term “transfer” and hence, the term includes sale, gift, exchange and lease of properties in the disturbed areas. The Registration Act, 1908 is also amended in order to incorporate the same.
● No unauthorized Redevelopment:
Redevelopment of the property shall be carried out solely by the owner.
● Approval to The Gujarat Land Grabbing (Protection) Bill, 2020:
The State Cabinet has approved the Gujarat Land Grabbing (Protection) Bill, 2020 which aims to prevent grabbing of land through illegal means and methods. The said Bill states that one who contravenes the provisions of the Bill shall be liable to undergo imprisonment for a minimum term of 10 years but which may extend to 14 years as and by way of punishment.
The Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 is a piece of legislation that aims at resolving concerns regarding the unlawful and illegal transfer of properties in the Disturbed Areas of the cities falling under the purview of the provisions of the Act. The proposed Amendments, too, have been proposed to achieve the higher objectives of the said Act. However, given the level of corruption in the county, an effective, efficient and orderly implementation of the amendments always seem to remain questionable, the answer of which stays absolutely unclear. India has always witnessed a lot of political pressures and influences in the working of various departments of the government.
Drafting of laws is important. Perhaps, what needs paramount consideration is the successful implementation of those laws. There is a need for a corruption free mechanism to monitor the smooth functioning of processes; especially in a state of affairs where the judiciary is stressed and overburdened.
● Damayantee Dhar, Disturbed Areas Act in Gujarat: A Tool to Discriminate Against Muslims, The Wire (June 26, 2018), https://thewire.in/rights/disturbed-areas-act-in-gujarat-a-tool-to-discriminate-against-muslims
● Disturbed Area Act to be Amended: Gujarat Government, DNA (July 17, 2018), https://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report-disturbed-area-act-to-be-amended-gujarat-government-2638092
● Rahul Nair, Is Disturbed Areas Act Polarizing Communities In Gujarat?, The Quint (August 23, 2019, 8.51 a.m.), https://www.thequint.com/news/india/disturbed-areas-act-makes-purchasing-property-cumbersome-in-gujarat-polarises-communities
● Gujarat’s Disturbed Areas Act, Drishti (October 14, 2020), https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/gujarat-s-disturbed-areas-act
● Shubham Tiwari, Amendment to Gujarat’s Disturbed Areas Act, Abhipedia (October 14, 2020), https://abhipedia.abhimanu.com/Article/HAS/MjMxMjYy/Amendment-to-Gujarat-s-Disturbed-Areas-Act-Indian-Political-System-HAS--HAS
● Parimal A. Dabhi, Explained: What has changed in Gujarat’s Disturbed Areas Act, The Indian Express (October 19, 2020, 12.43.p.m.), https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/gujarats-disturbed-areas-act-amendments-6723215/