Maintaining that a senior officer of Punjab shall be appointed to hold an incisive probe into the alleged illegal properties owned by high-ups on Chandigarh’s periphery, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday made it clear that the officer would be empowered to look into all the pieces of shamlat land grabbed or illegally sold out to private parties.
Except those cases wherein the High Court or the Supreme Court has passed an order in favour of the owner of the land, all other cases will be looked into by the officer. The observation assumes significance as a Judicial Tribunal has already submitted two exhaustive reports regarding 35 villages on Chandigarh’s periphery. The tribunal had given a panoply of suggestions and findings regarding land deals in 35 villages including Nayagaon and Kansal.
All such “shady” land deals will come under the scanner of the senior officer of the level of a Commissioner.
Lending clarity to the contours of the “probe”, the High Court held that the officer would act as a Court Commissioner in cases of Consolidation of Land. The observation was made after the counsel for the Punjab government submitted that the officer would only be entitled to look into shamlat land deals and not the land which falls under the Land Consolidation Act.
Saying that the “dispute” already stands resolved in a judgment rendered by a full bench, a division bench headed by Justice Hemant Gupta on Monday asked the state counsel to peruse the said judgment. As per the judgment, no state authority is empowered to interfere with “consolidated land”. The judgment makes it clear that a court alone is entitled to deal with such cases.
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With the officer yet to be appointed, given the dual power of a court commissioner, such cases (under the Land Consolidation Act) will be dealt with by him. During the resumed hearing of a petition concerning alleged illegal properties owned by high-ups on Chandigarh’s periphery, Punjab Additional Advocate General Reeta Kohli on Monday submitted names of three IAS officers, two of 1994 and one of 1995 batch, for the post of Commissioner.
The court has asked the state to take a final decision and appoint a commissioner to take action on the reports submitted by the Judicial Tribunal. On the last hearing, the court had berated the Punjab government for taking an evasive stand on the issue and failing to come up with a name. The case will now come up for resumed hearing on March 19.
The High Court had been reprimanding the state government for adopting “double standards” on the issue. The state government had moved the Supreme Court against an order of the High Court, dated May 29, 2012, vide which it had constituted a Judicial Tribunal. In response to a pointed query, the state government had submitted that it did not intend to withdraw its appeal from the apex court and was rather awaiting the outcome of its appeal.