SKIMS Take-over in 2003: SC Dismisses Plea Against Late Mufti,Others

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Srinagar—The Supreme Court of India has dismissed a petition against late PDP patron, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, party’s senior leader Minister Muzzafar Hussain Beigh, incumbent forest minister Lal Singh and MLA Khansahib Hakeem Yaseen among others.

The plea had challenged state high court’s order, upholding state government’s decision in 2003 to over possession of properties and management of the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Soura; Kashmir Nursing Home at Gupkar Road here and Dr. Ali Jan Shopping Complex at Kothibagh.

“No ground is made out for our interference with the impugned judgment (by J&K High Court),” said a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and according dismissed a civil appeal filed in 2006 against the high court’s verdict by Dr. Mohammad Ali Matoo in his capacity as then vice chairman and trustee of Sher-I-Kashmir National Medical Institute Trust.

In 2006, the high court bench of Justices Syed Bashir-ud-Din and V. K. Jhanji, gave a split judgment on a petition, challenging the government order of 22 July 2003 and eventually the court dismissed the plea by the Trust.

While Justice Jhanji (now retired) had dismissed the petition, Justice Syed Bashir-ud-Din (now retired quashed the government order. The petition in the circumstances was ordered to be listed before the third Judge in terms of Rule 36 of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Rules. The Third Judge, Justice S Jha, agreed with Justice Jhanji and upheld the validity of the government order.

As recorded by the high court in its judgment, the government had passed order after its Housing Department acquired about a thousand kanals of land at Zoonimar Srinagar for construction of a housing colony. A plan to build a 500-bed hospital at Soura Srinagar was also under consideration of the government. On 21st November 1972, it is said, some people, purportedly friends and admirers of late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, on the occasion of his 68th birth day decided to set up a public charitable trust for establishing a medical institute at Srinagar.

On 19th May, 1973 the trust, by name ‘Sher-i-Kashmir National Medical Institute Trust’, was registered and On 4th September 1973, the government sanctioned accorded to the transfer of the government dispensary at Soura along with the dispensary building, its kitchen block, chowkidar’s shed with land and appurtenances to the Trust. On 14th October 1973, the government gave sanction for lease of 292 kanals and 8 marlas of land to the Trust for a period of 40 years on consolidated rent of Rs. 100 per annum subject to execution of a lease deed.

On 23rd May, 1974, the government also accorded sanction to the transfer of Drug Research Laboratory, Moulana Azad Road, Kothibagh to the trust on rent. In the order, it was stated that the terms of transfer would be decided separately.

In February 1975 late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah took over as Chief Minister of the State and On 22nd May 1975 the Secretary of the trust requested the government to amend the 14th October 1973 order and convert lease of 292 kanals and 8 marlas land at Zoonimar into absolute grant in favour of the Trust. On 27th August, 1976, the Kashmir Nursing Home at Gupkar Road was also transferred to the trust along with land, building and other assets.

Meanwhile, the request for absolute transfer of 292 kanals and 8 marlas of land was processed at different levels and finally, pursuant to Cabinet Decision of 12 April, 1978, the government transferred ownership rights as donation under Clause (c) of Section 140 of the J&K Transfer of Property Act, 1977. Not only 292 kanals and 8 marlas of land at Zoonimar, the government dispensary at Soura, Drug Research Laboratory at Kothibagh and Kashmir Nursing Home at Gupkar Road, along with their land and appurtenances were transferred to the Trust.

Though no formal deed of transfer was executed, the trust got the properties mutated in its name in the revenue records. In the meantime, the government in the Medical Education Department had issued a order on 18 January 1977 renaming the proposed hospital at Soura as Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, Srinagar. On 17th December 1980, an agreement was entered into between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the trust in terms of which the trust provided land measuring 292 kanals and 8 marlas to Sher-i-Kashmir Hospital and Poly-Clinic along with land at Soura for construction and establishment of the medical institute. The agreement stipulated that the properties made available to government would continue to be property of the trust without any change in the proprietary rights. The Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura finally became functional in 1983. Meanwhile the Drug Research Laboratory at Moulana Azad Road, Kothibagh was dismantled by the trust and converted into a shopping complex known as Dr. Ali Jan Plaza and shops and accommodation were leased out to private individuals.

The Kashmir Nursing Home at Gupkar Road, Srinagar was also renovated / reconstructed and converted into a 40-bed nursing home at government expense.

After PDP came into power, it along with then coalition partner on 22nd July 2003 took over nursing home at Gupkar Road and other properties.

On 25 August 2003, the trust filed a writ petition before the high court, stating that the trust was created by 40 settlors who raised donations from different quarters for its establishment. The object, among others, was to establish Sher-i-Kashmir National Medical Institute to help, aid, assist, sponsor, organize, establish and maintain hospitals, dispensaries, clinics, health centers, maternity homes in the state.

Being satisfied with the aims and objects of the trust, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir initially, on 27th August, 1976, transferred Kashmir Nursing Home comprising of 22 kanals of land and structures along with its assets at Gupkar Road to the trust, the plea said.

Apart from the properties donated by the State, the Trust in the plea said one Raj Sawhney, the then Secretary of the trust, had donated 60 kanals of land to it and one Beant Singh, owner of Palladium Cinema, also donated 40 kanals of land. “The object of establishing a medical institute was a big project and it was not possible for the trust to establish it within its limited means and resources.”

“The government after being made aware of the charitable object and being satisfied with the same, agreed to construct Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences at Soura and in this background an agreement came to be executed between the Government and the trust on 17th December, 1980,” the trust had said.

The high court’s single bench in its first hearing on 1st September 2003 had referred to Division Bench the plea in view of the public interest. Subsequently, the Division Bench disposed of the petition by a spilt verdict and eventually the third judge dismissed it and upheld the Mufti-led government decision.

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