Even as it slammed the Haryana government for blatantly bending rules and making special arrangements for noted Bollywood director and producer Subhash Ghai,the Punjab and Haryana High Court has expressed surprise over the flagrant violation of provisions of the Village Common Land Act.
On September 11,the High Court had set aside the sale of 20 acres of shamlat land,by the Badhsa gram panchayat in Jhajjar to Ghai,for the construction of a Film and Education Institute. A detailed judgment was made available on Wednesday.
While expressing shock over two major violations by the state,a division bench comprising of acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain,held that the counsels for Ghai and Haryana miserably failed to show any provision from the Act, through which,such type of power could be granted to the panchayat to sell shamlat land in instalments.
The Indian Express was the first to report,on September 18,that there is no provision for payment through instalments,yet Ghai was allowed to pay Rs 8 crore,for the land,in seven instalments.
The Court also pointed out that the state government and the Badhsa panchayat were silent on the benefits of the land sale,while the resolution,to sell it to Ghai,was passed. Moreover,the Act pertaining to sale/transfer of panchayat land makes it mandatory for such land to be auctioned. Surprisingly,no advertisement was issued and no auction was held.
The land was handed over after Ghai had written a letter to the then Jhajjar district collector. This,due to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda,who treated it as a special case. The Indian Express had first reported the official noting,which demonstrated that despite objections from a legal officer,the deputy commissioner,Jhajjar,and the accountant general,the deal was allowed and approved by the chief minister.
In its 16 page judgment,the division bench has also expressed strong resentment over the rise in number of fraudulent acquisition and release of land,belonging to farmers. We have been observing a great deal of resentment among farmers over acquisition of their land…,but shamlat land is being squandered away by panchayats in flagrant violation of the settled law, reads the order.
The Bench further held that whenever a panchayat decides to sell its land,apart from the village body,the state government has to also form an opinion over whether the sale benefits the village’s inhabitants.
Referring to the resolution passed by the gram panchayat in the present case,the High Court noted that not a word in the resolution states that it is for the benefit of the village inhabitants. To our utter surprise,the resolution is totally silent on the reasons because of which the Panchayat had decided to sell the land. Neither the reasons nor the plans of utilisation of the income from the said sale has been sent to the state government while seeking its permission and,in turn,the state government,while passing the order has also not considered the mandatory provisions of the rules, the court has ruled.
Coming down heavily on Haryana and the gram panchayat,the Bench has further held: the panchayat has acted as an ordinary individual and not as an elected representative body while entering into the contract and has totally violated the provisions of the rules.