KATHMANDU, Feb 15: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the government policy against the fragmentation of agricultural lands through plotting for the development of housing estates.
A division bench of Justices Kedar Prasad Chalise and Tej Bahadur KC issued an order upholding a six-month- old decision by Minister of Land Reforms and Management Gopal Dahit. The apex court also lifted a stay order that prevented the implementation of the ministerial decision. The bench has quashed a writ petition filed by advocate Jagadish Acharya challenging the ministerial decision.
On August 9, 2017, Minister Dahit had issued a directive to various government authorities, including land revenue offices, survey offices and municipalities and rural municipalities, to stop ongoing land plottings. The minister argued that land plotting may reduce agricultural output and create a shortage of food in future.
Citing the Land Act, 1963, the ministerial decision further stated that the decision was taken on the basis of the principle that land is ultimately owned by the state and not by individual persons. The decision also called on the apex court to vacate its stay order that prevented the authorities from implementing the ministerial directive.
Clarafying that there would not be any hindrance to ploting land for property division among family members and to dividing plots as per the ruling of courts, the government said it had only restricted the plotting of land for sale. In its directive, the ministry gave a respite for dividing plots of land not more than once in a year for the purpose of property division between family members or according to the order of a court.
The directive has also defined 'agricultural land' as land where farmers harvest crops, which is as per the Land (Measurement Act), 1963 and the Land (Measurement) Rules, 2001.
The directive was stayed by the Supreme Court on September 17, 2017. The apex court had stated that it violated the right to property of the citizens. In his petition, the petitioner claimed that the directive of the minister not only infringed the right to property but also encroached on fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and on the basis of which people can buy, sell and possess property as personal assets.
Minister Dahit had filed another petition at the apex court seeking the scrapping of the September 17 stay order. The petition said the directive was issued in respect of people's right to food sovereignty as enshrined in the Constitution.