Restore govt land released to pvt parties 20 yrs ago: HC

Two decades after Punjab government officials committed a “fraud” by releasing government land to private parties,the Punjab and Haryana High Court have struck down the “fraudulent” allotment of nearly 400 kanals in Kapurthala.

Written by RAGHAV OHRI | Chandigarh | Published:February 3, 2012 3:32 am

400 kanals acquired in 1953 for setting up canal has been used for construction of houses in Kapurthala

Two decades after Punjab government officials committed a “fraud” by releasing government land to private parties,the Punjab and Haryana High Court have struck down the “fraudulent” allotment of nearly 400 kanals in Kapurthala.

Acquired in 1953 for the purpose of construction of the Kapurthala Bein Canal system (Kapurthala feeder),the land was illegally released to private persons who have,since then,constructed houses,carved out plots on the said land. Peeved over the blatant “fraud”,the high court has ordered “immediate restoration” of the land to the government. The land belongs to the state irrigation department.

Recommending a probe into the fraud against erring government officials,a division bench comprising Justices M M Kumar and Rajiv Narain Raina have come down heavily on the role of the then tehsildar-cum-managing officer of Kapurthala. Imposing a penalty of Rs 20,000 on the persons who managed to get the government land released in connivance with revenue officials,the court expressed shock over the “bogus allotments” made by the government in 1992. Though the judgment delivered last week,it was made available on Thursday.

The directions have been passed on a PIL filed by Subhash Chander,represented by Advocate Vivek Thakur. The petitioner had challenged the fraudulent allotments made on September 25,1992 and September 30,1992 on the ground that the land in question belongs to the irrigation department. The allotment was made to private persons on the basis of a letter issued by the then under secretary dated May 30,1991,the petition stated.

According to the letter,the land in question was to be released to the original owner. “The letter by the Under Secretary was only a proposal which never culminated in a final order of a competent authority. This letter has been used as a whip to cause grievous public loss by those very custodians of public property that were required to protect it,” the high court has ruled.

Advocate Thakur contended that the land belonged to the irrigation department and was a forest land,which under any eventuality,could not have been released without seeking permission of the Centre. He demanded that the “court should extinguish all bad intentions of the private parties to cling to the ill gotten land and to restore its lawful ownership of the government”.

Interestingly,three state departments filed contradictory stands in the high court. While the forest department feigned ignorance,the irrigation department maintained that it was never consulted prior to the allotment of plots. The revenue department was admonished by the high court.

“It is unfortunate that the revenue department has still insisted before this court in the PIL to justify unlawful actions of the department. This case presents a gloomy picture of the unlawful actions of the revenue department. In fact,we are surprised that private parties have had the temerity to protect their illegal possession and dubious ownership of land before us,of land acquired and declared protected forest area in 1952 and 1958 respectively,and seek to justify their continuance on the land,” the bench ruled.

It added: “All revenue record reflecting to the contrary is set aside,including the allotments and sale deeds that followed.” The court has also ordered that “mesne” profits be recovered from the private persons from 1992.

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