November 16, 2020 3:54:18 am
A Jammu court has ordered closure of a criminal misconduct case against an IAS officer for issuing an NOC allowing a businessman to start construction on a piece of land.
The plot was part of a piece of land transferred to Jammu Development Authority (JDA), but the ownership of the plot was vested with the businessman, Bansi Lal Gupta, under the J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act.
The development comes nearly a month after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court cancelled all land transfers made under the Act and ordered transfer of these cases to the CBI for investigation.
Accepting the final closure report of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, special court judge Y P Bourney held that there is nothing on record to suggest that the person in whose favour NOC was issued had any access to the officer or there was any reason for the officer to favour him. It said the matter appears to have been considered in a routine manner by the officer in a bonafide performance of her duties and, therefore, “no malafide could be attributed’’.
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“Allowing such cases to hang on the heads of upright officers would only deter the many from taking swift decisions at the nick of the hour which would not be in the interest of public at large,’’ the judge observed in the order on Thursday, adding that “the instant case merits its closure.”
Gupta owned a piece of land — measuring 5 kanal and 2 marla — at Deeli in Jammu. This was, however, part of 194 kanal and 5 marla state land transferred to Jammu Development Authority under survey No 781.
Giving details, the court pointed out that in 2011, Gupta was denied permission to raise an office complex, with then JDA vice-chairman Vinod Sharma saying the plot belonged to JDA.
Gupta then filed a representation before the Divisional Commissioner, who sought a report from Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, and the JDA vice-chairman. In 2012, the Divisional Commissioner marked his representation to the Chief Town Planner, who informed the then JDA vice- chairperson Sarita Chauhan.
She wrote back, highlighting that the land was transferred to JDA and could not be transferred to any individual under the Roshni Act. However, she left it to the wisdom of the Divisional Commissioner to see whether the land was rightly transferred to Gupta, concluding that if so found, a notification be issued and JDA’s claim be deleted.
Later, the Divisional Commissioner, in response to a letter from the Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development, wrote that the piece was notified for the purpose of J&K Development Act, 1970 and that the notification did not authorise the transfer of state land to JDA. Referring to the JDA’s objection, he said that though it had persisted that the land belonged to it, it did not assail the conferment of Gupta’s ownership rights.
The Principal Secretary forwarded the report to the JDA Vice- Chairperson for action. She again sought a clarification, to which JDA’s director, land management, said the entries in the record in favour of JDA were made without keeping in mind the actual status of land at the time and that it was in physical possession of Gupta. This cleared decks for issuance of NOC.
“It was not within her competence to sit in judgement and decide whether the land in question was rightly or wrongly transferred in favour of Bansi Lal,’’ the judge held.
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