Shocked over the manner in which government officials allegedly stole over 100 acres of shamlat land from Nanhera village in Panipat by changing the mutation numbers in the official records,the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Monday ordered a CBI probe into the fraud,asking the agency to investigate the alleged involvement of high-ups in the case.
Over four years ago,the Haryana government had chargesheeted two revenue officials by conceding that mutation records were changed to benefit private persons,who were not even inhabitants of the said village. But till date,no legal action has been taken against them. Moreover,when the villagers had demanded information from the government under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,the state responded that the said record (of mutation) is not available with the authorities.
The directions were passed by the court on a joint petition filed by over 60 residents of Nanhera village. The petitioners had alleged that they had discovered a fraud played by the then revenue officials,tehsildars,patwaris and kanungo by changing the mutation number of the villages shamlat land. They added that the village had over 400 acres of shamlat land,of which,nearly 115 acres was gifted to private persons a decade ago. The villagers claimed that the fraud appears to have been done at the behest of senior bureaucrats and politicians.
The villagers discovered the fraud when a resident of Uttar Pradesh started making representations to get more shamlat land released under his name. According to rules,shamlat land can only be transferred or sold after auction in the name of a person for the benefit of the said gram panchayat. Moreover,the party in whose name land is to be transferred,has to be an inhabitant of the same village.
Following this,a representation was made to the then Panipat deputy commissioner (DC) in 2002,who wrote to the then financial commissioner recommending a Vigilance probe. When no action was taken,the villagers moved the high court in 2010. A single bench sought reply from the then director (Consolidation) who had apprised the court that two revenue officials were chargesheeted in 2008 and that the investigation was being conducted by vigilance department.
Holding the response of the then director (Consolidation) as unsatisfactory,the high court had sought response from the chief secretary. On Monday,during the resumed hearing of the petition,Chief Secretary P K Chaudhery filed an affidavit informing the court that the matter was handed over from vigilance department to flying squad of the chief minister.
Reprimanding the Haryana government for its lackadaisical attitude and continuing with its probe at snails pace,Justice Rajesh Bindal observed that no satisfactory action has been taken by the authorities.
Meanwhile,while handing over the probe to the CBI,the court also referred to two recent instances of fraud played by government officials in Gurgaon and Mewat. A fortnight ago,the court had indicted Haryana IAS officers Anil Kumar and S C Goel for passing numerous orders without jurisdiction during their tenure as directors (Consolidation). A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain had set aside 20 orders passed by the two officers,which facilitated exchange of over 150 kanals of shamlat land in Gurgaon to private builders.