The Grant of permission under section 118 of land by non-agriculturists in Himachal Pradesh has been a matter of public debate and has also been raised in the Hon’ble High Court. The Cabinet which met here under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister, approved Amendments in Rule 38-A(a)(2) of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reform Rules, 1975 with a view to:

i) Bring in guidelines to ensure only eligible persons acquire land within strict limits and after due diligence to ensure it is appropriate for the concerned purpose.

ii) Plug loopholes resulting in excessive revenue loss, and

iii) Curtail discretion in the grant of permission

iv) Ensure that persons living in Himachal Pradesh from generation to generation will not face any hurdle in securing permission for acquiring land for a dwelling unit or shop.

The amended Rule provides that for all purposes, other than for a dwelling unit or shop, any non-agriculturist seeking to acquire land with permission under section 118, shall need an essentiality certificate (EC) from the concerned Department that will certify his eligibility, clearly state land required is as per norms and that NOCs from all relevant departments and authorities including Local Bodies have been obtained. In effect, for certain purposes like agriculture/horticulture use where no EC was required, this has been brought in and in cases like tourism and industry, relaxations with regard to NOCs have been removed.

In the case of permission for purchase of land for dwelling unit, the permission will be given only to person living and working in Himachal Pradesh prior to 1972 to persons working in Himachal Pradesh for over 30 years and duly recommended by concerned local body and to employees possessing bonafide Himachali Certificate, to Gallantry or Padma Award Winners and to persons who have achieved eminence in the sphere of health, education, culture, research, public service, sports and business and are recommended by a Committee of Principal Secretaries.

In the case of built up houses and flats, Section 118 is not attracted in case of lease upto 99 years. Consequently many transactions are occurring for flats and storeys in buildings on 99 year lease. These are registered at a fraction of the cost of transfer by sale. The amended Rules will allow for transfer by sale of such properties provided they are registered with the Town and Country Planning Department. This will enable the full stamp duty to be realized on these transactions.

These amended Rules and streamlined procedure will bring relief to both long term residents of Himachal Pradesh and outsiders, by clarifying the position on the situations where permission will be granted and where it will be refused.

It was decided to repeal the HP Pre-Emption Act, 2010, which has been attracting widespread criticism for holding up transactions relating to sale of land.

It has been decided to amend the HP Land Revenue Act, 1954, to provide for:

i) Service of summons by way of publication in newspaper in case service can not be affected at known address (this will facilitate speedier disposal of revenue cases, specially partition cases).

ii) Option of having mutation based on documents, entered and attested at Tehsil/Sub-Tehsil level instead of in Patwar Circle. This will facilitate immediate mutation of registered sales and other transactions and provide relief to persons residing away from Patwar Circle due to employment or other reasons.

It was decided to amend the HP Ceiling of Land Holding Act, 1972, to increase the ambit of activities qualifying for exemption from ceiling limit. Currently this is available only for hydel projects, industry and tea gardens. Given the expanding scope of economic, social and cultural activities, it is proposed to extend this to IT Parks, BT Parks, Tourism Units, religious or spiritual organisations and bodies or organizations active in the sphere of education and sports. This Act once passed by the Vidhan Sabha will be sent to Government of India for the assent of the President of India.

The Cabinet also considered the HP Lease Rules relating to Lease of government land to rectify the shortcomings and defects pointed out by government departments, public and concerned organisations. The new Rules streamline purposes for which lease can be granted so as to restrict it to public purposes of infrastructure, social and cultural activities and those with a location specificity such as hydel projects, ropeways etc.. The Lease rates have been standardized to 5 percent for a 99 year lease and 3.5 percent for lease upto 40 years, with a provision for periodic revision. Sub lease of shops in bus stand areas, parkings, etc. have been provided for to enable such infrastructure to come up on a self sustaining basis.

The Cabinet also approved two amendments in the Registration Manual. The First one does away with the requirement of an identifier where the persons seeking to register a document possesses a photo identity card of a category notified by the Government. The Second one seeks to prevent cash dealing by registration clerks in revenue offices to avoid the kind of incident of embezzlement that took place in Paonta Sahib recently. It has been approved to present photo identity proofs of PAN Card; ADHAR Card; Photo Identity Card issued by Central or State Government Department or a Central or State Government Undertaking; Valid Passport; Driving License (with photo); Photo Debit/Credit Card or Electoral Identity Card, in original by an executant or an identified to meet the requirements of Section 103 of the Registration Manual. This will be in addition to the existing system of identification.

It has been approved to enhance the taxable quantum from Rs. 2.00 lakh to Rs. 4.00 lakh in respect of small traders like halwai, dhaba owners and similar other catering houses of small scale as also introduce electronic facilities to the traders in the State to help them file their returns etc. conveniently by amending the Value Added Tax Act.

It approved creation of Himachal Pradesh Police Fund for utilization in improvement of traffic system/traffic signals and installation/maintenance of electronic equipments such as CCTV etc. For this, an amount of Rs. 83 lakh stands allotted to the Police Department.

It granted sanction to create 12 posts of different categories to make the 4th State Finance Commission functional, 15 posts of technical and non-technical categories for State Load Dispatch Centre and fill up nine posts of Junior Auditors through direct recruitment by the Local Audit Department by carrying recruitment of three Junior Auditors in each of the coming three years.

It granted sanction to construct one new Rest House by Public Works Department at Nandpur village in Tehsil Jubbal in district Shimla to facilitate convenient movement of field functionaries.

It approved 25th Annual Report of Lokayukta Himachal Pradesh for the year 2010 for presenting the same in the forthcoming Monsoon Session of Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly.

It approved Recruitment and Promotion Rules for the post of Deputy Legal Remembrancer-cum-Deputy Secretary (Law) (Class-I-Gazetted).

It sanctioned one Scorpio in replacement of the old condemned vehicles for Animal Husbandry Department.