Ahmedabad-based builder Raman Patel, once a witness in the CBI’s investigation on Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, was booked Tuesday in a case of alleged 1977 land grabbing at Thaltej area.
Between August 16 and December 22 this year, at least four FIRs have been lodged against Raman and his family members in different police stations across Ahmedabad.
According to police, 85-year-old Khodaji Thakor, a resident of Thaltej in Ahmedabad, had approached Sola High Court police station with a formal complaint stating that Raman, the owner of Popular Builders Group, and his six associates had allegedly committed a fraud against him by grabbing his 81 hectares of land in 1977 by changing the power of attorney.
“The land was under the name of my mother Kakuben since 1956 and I had done farming on the land for some years. However, years after I left farming on the land, I was told by my son recently that my land revenue documents display that my land now belongs to Someshwar Kheti Sahkari Mandal under the names of Purshottam Revandas, Prabhudas, Kanjibhai, Kehrabhai and Someshwar and it has been designated to Raman Patel and Sandip Prajapati. It has been mentioned that back in 1977 I had sold my land to the Someshwar Kheti Sahkari Mandal. These people conspired and fraudulently put my signature to grab the land,” Thakor stated in his complaint.
Taking cognizance, police have booked all seven accused under Indian Penal Code sections 420 for fraud, 406 for criminal breach of trust, 465 for forgery, 466 for forgery of record of court, 467 for forgery of valuable security, 468 for forgery for purpose of cheating, 471 for fraudulently using forged documents as genuine and 120B for criminal conspiracy.
“The probe in the case has begun as of now and we are yet to question all the accused,” said JP Jadeja, inspector, Sola High Court police station.
Raman is currently in jail as four FIRs have been lodged against him at Vastrapur and Sola High Court police stations wherein three of them are for land grabbing and one for attempt to murder, assault and dowry harassment, filed by his daughter-in-law Fizu Patel.
Raman and his brother Dashrath have had a long history with law. On December 8, 2004, the names of Raman and Dashrath first surfaced when two unidentified men opened fire on the office of Popular Builders in Navrangpura of Ahmedabad where no one was hurt. Later, in the CBI investigation of Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, the brothers turned witnesses and the CBI stated in its report that the firing incident was allegedly part of a larger conspiracy where Sheikh was allegedly told at the behest of Gujarat Police IPS officers and then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah to target the Popular Builders’ office to make a case against Sheikh and ultimately eliminate him.
In 2010, Raman and Dashrath were also named in a Rs 100-crore land-grabbing case by the Surat police.
Now, with three recent FIRs of land grabbing, speculation is that Raman might be booked under the newly introduced stringent Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act.
Under the Anti-Land Grabbing Act, a committee of seven officials, headed by the district collector and having other members such as district development officer, district superintendent of police, municipal commissioner, police commissioner, chief executive officer of urban development authority and resident additional collector is formed. Any aggrieved person can approach the committee with a written complaint which will then appoint an officer to inquire into the complaint. The inquiry officer will submit the report and the committee has to take a decision on the report within 21 days.
As per the Act, if the complaint is found genuine, then the committee will order registration of an FIR against the accused person. Police will have to register an FIR in the case within seven days of the order of the committee. Investigation of the case will be done by a police officer, not below the rank of deputy superintendent of police. Police will also have to submit the charge sheet within 30 days of the FIR. For expediting trial in cases under the law, special courts will also be set up and these courts will have to dispose of the case within six months.
Speaking to The Indian Express, M A Patel, assistant commissioner of police of A Division Ahmedabad said, “We are now collecting old cases of land grabbing against Raman Patel. He can be booked under the anti-land grabbing Act in future, however, there has been no action now.”
The newly implemented Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act is stringent because it has the provision of minimum 10 years imprisonment which can go upto 14 years.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines