A DAY after it fixed December 16 to hear the UT government’s petition seeking review of its October 9 judgment scrapping the 2001 J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act or Roshni Act – leading to cancellation of all transfer of state land to private individuals under the law – the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday brought forward the date of hearing to December 11 after the administration cited urgency.
The CBI is currently investigating into irregularities in the land transfers made under the law.
On Tuesday, Additional Advocate General Aseem Sawhney, through an urgent hearing motion, told the division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal that the matter needed urgent court intervention as poor and landless people who had also benefited under the Act will be facing the heat along with wealthy and influential people.
“We are implementing the Roshni judgment and there is absolutely no issue with regard to that, but at the same time there is disquiet among the masses… poor and landless people. Agriculturalists having one marla or five marla or one kanal land, even they are going to feel the heat. We want to segregate them from the sharks… There are big sharks, influential people, big businessmen, bureaucrats, police officers and politicians, we want to segregate them from the common man,” he told the court.
Responding to administration plea that it does not want to “unsettle the settled” and so it may be allowed to lay down a policy differentiating the poor and landless from the influential and rich occupants of state land, the bench said: “Who has stopped you…. We have not restrained anybody… There is no stay order.” Sawhney then said the government does not want to be seen as trying to bypass the route of the judgment or trying to mellow it down, for which it needed hearing of the review petition at the earliest.
He said the CBI should start probing the big encroachers first and not reinvestigate cases already probed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which previously handled the matter. “The ACB has already finished with certain investigations and certain challans are pending. The CBI should not unearth or reinvestigate those matters. The CBI should not start from A to B, but from the big encroachers. It should not be like that first catch hold of the ACB and it may happen that CBI, instead of investigating the encroachers, start proceeding against our officials. There is fear psychosis among the masses and also among the revenue people.”
Fixing the government’s review petition and a PIL filed by Prof S K Bhalla for hearing on December 11, the bench, however, said, “We do not want lopsided investigations and it should be fair… We do not want discrimination of any kind in the name of religion, region, cultural and status.’’ It asked the CBI to file an action taken report in a sealed cover on the next date of hearing.
This followed a submission by advocate Sheikh Shakeel, counsel for Bhalla, who said there was “selective targeting” after the court’s October 9 judgment, adding that a narrative was being built contrary to the facts to target a particular community and the media was being used to foster the false narrative. The PIL sought constitution of a special investigation team to investigate the cases of encroachment of state and forest land by bureaucrats and politicians and their subsequent prosecution.
The prominent cases investigated by the ACB include the 2009 Gulmarg land scam in which former IAS officer Baseer Khan, present Advisor to J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, has been named as an accused along with 19 others.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines