THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court has ordered the Punjab government not to cancel the allotment of surplus evacuee land to a large number of landless agricultural labourers in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar and other districts. Evacuee land are those that fell vacant due to migration of families to Pakistan at the time of Partition.
Justice Paramjeet Singh, while hearing a number of petitions filed by the affected farmers, issued notices to the state government and asked them to file a reply by February 12 next year.
In one of the petitions filed by Paramjit Singh and 25 other villagers of tehsil Balachaur in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, directions have been sought to set aside the order passed on November 30 by tehsildar (sales) of Balachaur to the revenue officials for cancellation of sale deeds executed in favour of the petitioners in 2008.
The petitioners submitted that the land was lying unutilised for many years after the partition of India and Pakistan, and the central government had transferred land to Punjab government in 1961 at a fixed price under transaction popularly known as ‘Package Deal’.
Thereafter, the land came in possession of the petitioners in 1998 on lease at the rate of Rs 500 per acre per annum. After a decade, in September 2008, the government took the decision to make permanent allotment of land to the lease owners for which it charged Rs. 15,000 per acre for landless general category agricultural labourer and Rs. 12,000 per acre for scheduled caste, backward class landless agricultural labourer.
The allottees also paid the stamp duty for permanent transfer of land in their names with the condition that allottees will not be able to sell the land for further 10 years.
Appearing for the petitioners in most of the cases, senior advocate Puneet Jindal had apprised the court that at the time of allotment, the land was not worthy of cultivation. He added that petitioners spent huge time, labour and money in making the land cultivable and the government ensured that not more than five standard acres was allotted to anyone.
It was submitted that the petitioners received a letter dated October 8 that since a policy of the state government dated September 26, 2007, has been declared invalid by the Supreme Court and that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued order dated September 15 canceling allotments of land under the policy, therefore, the respective areas of land allotted to the petitioners are canceled.
However, petitioners’ counsel argued that the Supreme Court and the High Court judgments are not applicable to the petitioners as there are no grounds of fraud as per The Punjab Package Deal Properties (Disposal) Act, 1976, under which transfer deed once executed could be canceled.
It has been submitted that the petitioners are not illegal owners of land and valuable consideration was deposited by the petitioners apart from stamp duty as per government instructions before ownership of the land was transferred on their names.