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The plea contends that the Ordinance will restore the zamindari system prevailing in Karnataka prior to 1960 by snatching the lands from farmers at throw away price.
The Karnataka High Court has issued notice to the state government in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that questions the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 [Nagaraj Sheshappa Hongal v. State of Karnataka].
A Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka has sought for the response of the state government in the matter.
The plea before the High Court states that the Ordinance, notified on July 13, 2020, seeks to remove restrictions/limit on the income ceiling for non- agriculturists to buy farm land by omitting Sections 79A, 79B and 79 C of the parent Act, ie, the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.
It is further stated that there had been lot of inequality in terms of land holdings earlier and this had hugely affected agricultural productivity. In order to bring down this disparity, the provision pertaining to land ceilings was envisaged in the Act. However, the present amendment, under Section 63, increases the ceilings by doubling the same. This amendment runs counter to the very objectives of the Act, submits the PIL.
The petitioner has also contended that the Ordinance has brought tremendous pressure on farmers to sell their land and no farmer could purchase agricultural land any time in the future due to highly speculative agricultural investment.
The PIL further reads,
"The title of the Act, Karnataka Land Reforms Act, which contained mainly the grant of occupancy rights-making the tiller the owner of the soil. Tenancy was inheritable. The other components of the Act were ceilings on land holdings and eligibility for holding the agricultural lands. These three aspects collectively was the soul of Karnataka Land Reforms Act. After these aspects were relaxed/ removed, nothing remains in the Act which can quality the Statute to be called Land Reforms Act...
...This ordinance will restore the zamindari system prevailing in Karnataka prior to 1960 by snatching the lands from farmers at throw away price. It creates neo-landlordism in Karnataka. Thus, the ordinance runs counter to the very object of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act 1961."
The plea goes on to contend that the said Ordinance was promulgated without any research or study and is arbitrary in nature.
Additionally, it is argued that the impugned Ordinance is in gross violation of Article 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The Ordinance takes away the livelihood of farmers by virtue of uncontrolled inflow of investments in the agriculture, which will be detrimental to the interest of farmers, the plea states.
Therefore, on these grounds, the petition seeks to quash the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
The matter will be next heard on September 18.