Disturbed Areas Act: Guj HC issues notice to state gov’t

The plea moved by Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind raises concerns over ghettoisation and deepening of communal divide

GujaratImage: Wikimedia Commons

On Wednesday the Gujarat High Court issued notice to the Gujarat Government in connection with a petition filed by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JUH) against the amendments to the Disturbed Areas Act. It also restrained the state government from issuing any further notifications under certain sections of the act that allow the state to designate an area as “disturbed area”.

Brief history of Disturbed Areas Act in Gujarat

The Act formally titled Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Properties and provision for Tenants from Eviction from Premises in the Disturbed Areas Act prohibits transfer of immovable property in placed designated “disturbed areas”. Panic driven sales are common in case of communal conflagrations.

Enacted in 1991 and modified in 2005, the Disturbed Areas Act as it is commonly referred to, says “Where the State Government, having regard to the intensity and duration of riot or violence of mob and such other factors in any area of the State is of opinion that public order in that area was disturbed for a substantial period by reason of riot or violence of mob, it may, by notification in the Official Gazette declare such area to be a disturbed area.” In order to transfer immovable property in a Disturbed Area, a person must make an application to the District Collector.

The Act applies to communally sensitive areas in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Himmatnagar, Bharuch, Surat, Godhra, and Kapadvanj. Fresh amendments were passed in July 2019 by the Gujarat Assembly, but held back allegedly by the Ministry of Home Affairs in January 2020. The ministry reportedly sought greater clarification as to the definition of “immovable property” and also sought to know if provisions of the act violate any other law and the Indian Constitution. In February 2020, large swathes of Khambhat town in Anand district were also placed under the Disturbed Areas Act for five years.

The proposed amendments reportedly gave greater power to the District Collectors to gauge whether the sale would lead to ‘polarisation’ or ‘improper clustering’ that had the potential to cause disturbance in future. It also allowed for imprisonment of people violating the act from anywhere between three to five years. The fine amount was also increased from the original Rs 1,000/- to Rs 1,00,000 or ten percent of the value of the property.

Plea by JUH and the HC’s latest Order

The petition moved by JUH says that these provisions essentially lead to communal segregation and ghettoisation, thus going against principles of secularism and communal harmony. JUH has challenged Sections 3, 4, 5, 5A, 6, 6A, 6B, 6C, 6D, 6E, 16A, 16B, 16C and 16D of the Act.

Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Ashutosh Shastri were hearing the petition, and in the order passed on Wednesday, the court restrained the Gujarat Government from issuing any notification under Sections 3(1) (ii) and (iii) of the Act that give the state the power to notify any area based on “improper clustering of persons of one community”.

The order said, “Ms. Manisha Lavkumar Shah, learned Government Pleader upon instructions has informed that as of date the Notification under Section 3 (1) (ii) and (iii) of the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provisions for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from premises in the Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 (Amendment Act, 2020) has still not been issued and is at the stage of the assent of the Governor. Till the next date fixed, the respondent – State is restrained from issuing any Notification under the above provisions.”

The court also issued notice returnable by the next date of hearing i.e February 3 to the state government saying, “As there is a challenge to the provisions of the State enactment as being ultra vires, let notice be issued to the learned Advocate General for the date already fixed.” 

The entire Order may be read here.


Vadodara man booked for not disclosing religion during sale of property

After communal violence Gujarat’s Khambhat put under Disturbed Areas Act for 5 years



Related Articles