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Let HC decide first: SC refuses to hear review pleas against J&K HC Roshni Act judgment

Appearing for J&K, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assures no coercive action against petitioners.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | December 11, 2020 2:33:56 am
Court said every state must act vigilantly and work with the Centre harmoniously in this pandemic time.

THE SUPREME Court on Thursday refused to go into appeals filed against J&K High Court’s order holding the Roshni Act, 2001 unconstitutional. It said review petitions against the order were pending before the High Court and there cannot be parallel proceedings.

“How can there be parallel proceedings?…Until and unless the reviews are decided, we can’t do much,” said a bench of Justices N V Ramana, Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions by some of the beneficiaries who claimed that they were not encroachers but lawful occupants.

The SC noted that the matter has been listed before the HC on December 21 and asked the court to decide it. “The review has to be decided. Let’s see what happens in January, let the reviews be heard,” the court said, adjourning the matter to the last week of January 2021.

Appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir Administration, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta orally assured the court that no coercive action will be taken against the petitioners for now.

The SC also said that the pendency of the petitions will not stop the petitioners from approaching the HC seeking review.

The HC had on October 9 declared the J&K State Land (Vesting of Occupants Ownership) Act 2001, also known as Roshni Act, “void ab initio’’ and ordered a CBI investigation into all instances of alleged irregularities in transfer of state lands to private individuals.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the order was passed without hearing his client who is not an encroacher but a long-term lessee.

Mehta said the government was only against encroachers and not against bonafide land holders.

Justice Surya Kant then referred to review petitions coming up before the HC.

Rohatgi responded that the UT itself has applied for review.

Justice Suryakant pointed out that similar petitions had come up in the HC and sought to know if parallel proceedings can happen.

Mehta said that UT administration has said that “encroachers” and “land grabbers” cannot claim exemption from the HC order. “Land grabbers cannot be spared and…the lawful owners have to be saved,” he told the bench.

Rohatgi wondered how there could be an investigation against bonafide land owners.

Pointing to different decisions, Mehta said if the SC considers the plea, it would lead to confusion and added that the petitioners can approach the HC review bench.

Agreeing, the bench said, “All petitioners should approach the review bench… We will direct accordingly.”

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