Encroachment of 20 Lakh kanals of State Land in State of J&K
Jammu Tawi, December 30
In the much publicized Public Interest Litigation highlighting encroachment of State Land by the powerful land mafia in league with Politicians, Revenue Officials and Police Officers, a Division Bench of the State High Court comprising First Puisne Judge Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice B.S. Walia has directed the personal appearance of Divisional Commissioners Jammu and Srinagar on February, 21, 2017 and both the Divisional Commissioners have also been directed to submit an affidavit as to whether they have the copies of the report containing the 13 Volumnes indicating the list of encroachments so as to enable the Court to pass further orders on the next date of hearing.
After hearing Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed with Advocates Irfaan Mohd. Khan, Supriya Chouhan and Rahul Raina appearing for the petitioner whereas Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai with Senior AAG Seema Khajooria Shekhar, Deputy AG Ehsan Mirza appearing for the State Government, the Division Bench headed by First Puisne Judge Ramalingam Sudhakar observed that the core issue addressed by Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed appearing for the petitioner is that the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu and the Divisional Commissioner, Srinagar have submitted the records before this Court in thirteen volumes and it is stated to be in the custody of Registrar Judicial of this Court. These are all relating to probable lands of the State which have been encroached. The Division Bench further said that however, a final decision in the matter should be taken by the Divisional Commissioners as to how to proceed in the matter in consultation with the Revenue Secretary.
When this PIL of wide public importance came up for hearing Advocate S.S. Ahmed drew the attention of the Division Bench towards order dated September, 4, 2013 passed by a Division Bench then headed by Chief Justice M.M. Kumar (since retired) whereby both Divisional Commissioners, Jammu/Kashmir had been directed to disclose before this Court the names and particulars of all those who have grabbed almost 20 lakh kanals of State Land which issue was initially highlighted in the Legislative Assembly by Yash Pal Kundal (MLA-JKNPP) through a starred question (AQ No.618). The DB had also directed that it will take a view for further course of action when the encroachers are identified.
Advocate Ahmed further submitted that in view of the massive encroachment of State Land the Division Bench vide its order dated February, 19, 2014 had expressed its displeasure over the silence of the State Chief Secretary for not taking any stand with regard to the future course of action concerning the huge encroachment on the State land. The Division Bench had directed the Chief Secretary to file his stand failing which he shall remain present in person to explain his conduct. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that till date despite repeated directions from the Division Bench the Chief Secretary has not bothered to come up with a mechanism to suggest measures for retrieving the State Land from the illegal occupants. Advocate Ahmed sought personal appearance of the Chief Secretary in view of non-filing of mechanism by the Head of the Bureaucracy.
While launching a scathing attack on the State Government Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that despite the identification of the encroachers no serious attempt has been made by the functionaries of the Revenue Department to retrieve the State Land from the illegal occupants. He further submitted that the State Government lacks the political will to proceed against the powerful land mafia which has its tentacles in the power corridors as certain Cabinet Ministers and elected representatives have also encroached prime State lands and no action is being taken by the Authorities. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that whenever an eviction drive is initiated the authorities intentionally target nomads and poor people having few marlas of land and deliberately a situation is created to win the sympathy of the masses and thereafter the eviction drive is suspended citing law and order problems in order to favour ‘Big Sharks’. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that bulldozer must start from VIPs/Big Wigs who have encroached big chunks of State Land and periodic reports should be summoned from both the Divisional Commissioners regarding the eviction drive.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that the State Government is also shielding the high profile IAS officers involved in the infamous Roshini Land Scam. He further submitted that small fries like Naib-Tehsildars, Girdawars and Patwaries are being targeted leaving behind big sharks like Hirdesh Kumar Singh (IAS) and Sudhanshu Pandey (IAS) as despite being prima facie found involved in transferring State Land contrary to the Roshini Scheme the State Government illegally refused prosecution sanction against influential bureaucrat Hirdesh Kumar Singh. Advocate Ahmed further submitted that Hirdesh Kumar Singh is a Member of All India Service and his prosecution file should have been referred to Department of Personnel and Trainings (DoPT), Govt. of India but in order to confer undue benefit the matter was not sent to DoPT and sanction was declined by the State Government on extraneous considerations as Hirdesh Kumar Singh despite his tainted image is serving as Commissioner/Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department.
Advocate Ahmed further submitted that in the last status report filed by the SVO in the infamous Roshini Land Scam astonishing revelations were made and the SVO after in-depth investigation sought prosecution sanction against Senior IAS Officers but the GAD acted as a shield and declined the sanction without forwarding the cases to DoPT. Advocate Ahmed sought appropriate directions to SVO to come up with the latest status of the investigation in the multiple FIRs registered in Roshini Land Scam so that further directions can be issued in the matter.
Advocate S.S. Ahmed further submitted that there is accountability deficit in State of J&K and drive against corruption is only intended against children of lesser God and Big Sharks like Hirdesh Kumar Singh are given safe passage.
At this stage Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai assisted by Senior AAG Seema Khajooria Shekhar and Deputy Advocate General Ehsan Mirza appreciated the concern raised in the Public Interest Litigation and stated that State Govt. is equally concerned about the massive encroachment of the State land. The Advocate General further submitted that there is no need for issuing any direction to the Chief Secretary as the issue can be addressed by both the Divisional Commissioners in consultation with the Revenue Secretary and a mechanism can be evolved for retrieving the State Land from illegal occupants. Deputy Advocate General Ehsan Mirza appearing for the Revenue Department submitted that there are adequate provisions in the Land Revenue Act for removal of encroachments and he also referred some cases where Deputy Commissioners in Jammu Province have started the eviction drive.
Senior Advocate B.S. Slathia with Advocate Bhanu Singh Slathia appearing for Hirdesh Kumar Singh (IAS) the then Deputy Commissioner Jammu while rebutting the arguments of Advocate S.S. Ahmed submitted that Hirdesh Kumar Singh is an officer of impeccable integrity and was falsely implicated by SVO in two FIRs. He further submitted that in one FIR the State Government has refused sanction and in another the matter is under consideration. The senior counsel further submitted that unnecessarily Hirdesh Kumar Singh is being targeted when he has neat and clean service record.
After hearing at length the Division Bench of the State High Court comprising First Puisne Judge Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice B.S. Walia has directed the personal appearance of Divisional Commissioners Jammu and Srinagar on February, 21, 2017 and both the Divisional Commissioners have also been directed to submit an affidavit as to whether they have the copies of the report containing the 13 Volumnes indicating the list of encroachments so as to enable the Court to pass further orders on the next date of hearing. JNF