Jammu: A Division Bench of the State High Court has expressed its displeasure over the non-cooperation extended by DC Jammu to the State Vigilance Organization which is probing a complaint about the encroachment of 10 Kanals Forest Land by Abdul Gani Kohli Minister for Animal and Sheep Husbandry J&K Government at Nowabad Sunjwan.
Cabinet Minister is stated to have raised a huge educational complex comprising of a B.Ed College, ETT College, B.N. Para Medical School, B.N. Public School, ATM and Branch of J&K Bank on the said land.
Division bench comprised of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice B.S. Walia and the complaint was lodged by social activist Ankur Sharma.
When the Public Interest Litigation came up for hearing, the petitioner appearing in person drew the attention of the Bench to the detailed status report already filed by State Vigilance Organization wherein it has been disclosed that as per the records submitted by Divisional Forest Officer, Demarcation Division No.1 Jammu vide his letter No.238-40/DMR dated August, 7, 2015 perusal whereof reveals that Khasra No.356 comprising of Compartment Nos.1, 3, 5 of Bahu Range as per record available is Forest Land. The status report further highlights that the records have been duly scrutinized by Naib-Tehsildar, Girdawar and Range Officer and the total land evaluated of these compartments is 1540 Kanals and 07 Marlas. The status report further highlights that the enquiry conducted so far has established that the institutions are being owned and managed by the family members of Abdul Gani Kohli and the building complex has been raised on Khasra No.356 of Village Nowabad Sunjwan which as per the records submitted by the owners to the various authorities and as per the report of the Forest Department i.e. DFO Demarcation, Khasra No.356 is forest land thereby substantiating the basic allegation of the whistleblower.
Sharma further highlighted that the SVO took up the matter with Deputy Commissioner Jammu vide letter No.SSP/2015/HLP/3171/VOJ dated July, 20, 2015 for the demarcation of land but the Deputy Commissioner Jammu has so far failed to extend cooperation with the State Vigilance Organization with the result the demarcation of the disputed land has not been done till date. The petitioner further submitted in the open court that Deputy Commissioner Jammu is shielding the high profile Minister and there appears to be some pressure on the said officer as more than 10 months have elapsed but the demarcation has not been finalized.
He also referred the Judgment of the Apex Court titled Lalita Kumari V/s State of U.P. & Ors wherein the Apex Court has directed that a preliminary enquiry in a corruption case should not exceed 15 days. He further argued that the petitioner lodged the complaint with the SVO on June, 16, 2015 but due to non-cooperation by Deputy Commissioner Jammu the whole enquiry has come to a standstill and time bound schedule is required to be fixed so that the enquiry gets finalized and all those involved be dealt under law.
At this stage the Division Bench expressed displeasure and observed that it appears that some of the functionaries of the Government including Deputy Commissioner Jammu are not cooperating for purpose of demarcation and the Division Bench accordingly directed Deputy Commissioner Jammu to render all possible assistance with a view to enable the Vigilance Organization to do the needful. The Division Bench looking into the importance of the issue directed that all proceedings with regard to the demarcation of the land will be completed within 10 days from today.
The petitioner further submitted that all out attempt is being made to shield/protect the high profile encroacher as the status report filed by SVO has clearly revealed that a huge educational complex has come up on forest land and the Government is completely unmoved in view of the political clout enjoyed by the Cabinet Minister.
The petitioner strenuously argued that immediate directions be issued for removal of the encroachment and also for the registration of FIR against the sitting Cabinet Minister and all those who facilitated the encroachment of forest land. The petitioner further stated that the Apex Court has taken serious view of the encroachments on Forest Land and even exemplary costs have been imposed on the violators.
At this stage the Division Bench observed that from the records it appears that Abdul Gani Kohli has never been served and in the first instance notices were issued to the State Vigilance Organization. The Division Bench looking into the seriousness of the matter directed the Registry to issue notice to Abdul Gani Kohli for which fresh particulars have already been provided by the petitioner who was present in person.
The Division Bench also directed Senior AAG Seema Khajooria that she will file status report as regards the action, if, proposes to initiate with a view to remove the encroachments from the Forest Land as is reflected in the status report filed earlier by SVO. The Division Bench allowed two weeks time to the Senior AAG to file the said status report.
The Division Bench while parting with the order directed the Registry to provide the copy of todays order to counsel for both the parties so that the directions are implemented.
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