Sunday, July 17, 2016

Housing Discrimination update: Disturbed Areas Act and Real Estate Rules

This blog has doggedly pursued the issue of housing discrimination and the need for legal regulation (see here and here). Sociological research by Sidhwani and Vithayathil & Singh add to the growing evidence of housing apartheid in urban India. Here are a few further updates on the issue.

1. While the Government was piloting the Real Estate Bill 2016 through Parliament, two Congress MPs Kumari Selja and Rajeev Gowda moved amendments to outlaw discrimination in the housing sector. They withdrew their amendment on the Minister's promise to outlaw it under the Rules. Media reports were ecstatic over the promise. The Ministry's move seems to be a damp squib: first, it seems that the central Ministry can only frame rules for Union Territories without a legislature (just as well). So, the promise only applies to a very small part of the country. Even there, the published draft Rules only mention discrimination in passing, almost as an afterthought, and are highly unlikely to have any impact. The very short timeframe for sending comments on the draft has now expired. Hopefully, next time the MPs will insist on statutory amendment rather than be satisfied by vague promises relating to statutory instruments, which are mostly beyond parliamentary oversight in any case.

2. On a related matter, just saw this news story about the Gujarat Disturbed Areas Act 1991. In the notified areas, it forbids any transfer of immovable property unless the collector is satisfied that the transfer is free and consensual. In formal terms, therefore, it seems to be a law designed to address distress sales of property by persons fleeing violence. The hyperlinked media stories appear to suggest that it is being used to prevent Muslims from buying property in 'Hindu' areas. Sounds very similar to the various Freedom of Religion Acts passed in many states, ostensibly designed to protect religious freedom, but in effect having precisely the opposite effect.

3. For readers interested in my campaign to get a comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation enacted (along with the text of a draft Bill), please see this link.
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