J&K Govt’s Review Petition To Be Heard On Dec 11
Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday asked the CBI to submit its Action Taken Report (ATR) in a sealed cover on the progress in cases registered to probe alleged irregularities in the Roshni Act and fixed December 11 for hearing a review petition by the Union Territory administration to review its earlier order in this case.
Chief Justice Gita Mittal, who retired on Tuesday, and Justice Rajesh Bindal, appointed as the acting head, listed the case for Friday after allowing the urgent hearing motion filed by the government through its additional advocate generals (AAG) for preponement of the date in the now-scrapped Roshni Act.
“We are informed by Ms Monika Kohli that the report of the CBI is ready and she is filing it during the course of the day.
“We direct that any report by the CBI shall be filed in a sealed cover and presented to the Bench on the date of hearing in court,” a two-page order of the court said while listing the case for December 11.
The CBI is likely to submit its report on Wednesday, officials said.
On Monday, the court had adjourned the hearing in the case till December 16.
The government filed the petition on December 4 for modification of the nearly two-month-old judgment stating that a large number of common people would suffer unintentionally including landless cultivators and individuals who are themselves residing in dwellings in small areas.
It said there was a need to distinguish between the common people and the wealthy land grabbers among the beneficiaries, and favoured that landless labourers or those with one house in personal use be allowed to keep the allotted land under the Roshni Act.
After the AAGs, Asseem Sawhney and F A Natnoo, pleaded for an early hearing in the case, the division bench fixed the matter for December 11 for hearing the review petition moved by the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
The court also heard advocates Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed for the petitioner and Kohli for the CBI in the virtual hearing.
The court, in a verbal observation, cautioned the agency against conducting a roving inquiry against small officials and landowners and asked it to focus on the “big sharks” and not selectively target first the cases where the anti-corruption bureau is already dealing with the matter or charge sheet has been presented, Ahmad said.
Ahmad said the court passed “significant oral observations”. He said that “we do not want a lopsided investigation, also do not want discrimination of any kind in the name of religion, region, culture and status”.
This was contested by Kohli who said this was a presumption made by Ahmad without any basis as only the CBI’s ATR will prove to the contrary, the officials said.
Ahmad is representing Prof S K Bhalla who had challenged the Roshni Act in the court, which on October 9 finally declared the law “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable” and ordered a CBI probe into the allotment of the land under this law.
In its petition filed two months after the judgment amid criticism over its role in not defending the Act in the court, the government which has started releasing separate lists of beneficiaries of Roshni Act and encroachers of government land said the common people are unfortunately clubbed along with rich and wealthy land grabbers who have obtained a title over state land through the provision of now struck down Act.
“There is a need to distinguish between these two classes of people; the fact of being either a landless cultivator or house-holder with at the most one dwelling house in personal use, would be the primary criteria for differentiating between two classes,” the petition read.
The petition prayed for permission to formulate an appropriate mechanism to enable people like landless cultivators and single dwelling owners to continue to remain in possession of their land, subject to an appropriate ceiling and on payment at appropriate rates.
On November 1, the Union Territory administration cancelled all land transfers that took place under the JK State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 – also known as the Roshni Act.
Under the Act, 2.5 lakh acres of land was to be transferred to the existing occupants.
According to the high court order, a total of 6,04,602 kanals (75,575 acres) of state land had been regularised and transferred to the occupants. This included 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4174 acres) in the Kashmir province.
According to the order, complete identities of influential persons, including ministers, legislators, bureaucrats, government officials, police officers and businessmen, their relatives or persons holding benami for them, who have derived benefit under the Roshni Act, will be made public within a period of one month.
The Roshni Act was enacted in 2001 with the twin objective of generating resources for financing power projects and conferment of proprietary rights to the occupants of the state land.
The scheme was finally repealed by the then governor Satya Pal Malik on November 28, 2018.
Earlier, the National Conference took a dig at the J&K administration over its alleged failure to defend the Roshni Act and said thousands of citizens who were bonafide beneficiaries under the scheme are now virtually deprived of their homes and hearth for no fault of theirs.
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