STATE TIMES NEWSJAMMU: A Division Bench (DB) of State High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan on Thursday directed government to file complete list of Roshni Scheme beneficiaries. The court direction came in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) titled Ankur Sharma versus State of J&K and others, challenging the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, which is popularly known as ‘Roshni Act’.
Encroachment of forest land by ex-minister: DB directs Div Com, PCCF to file report JAMMU: A Division Bench (DB) of J&K High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan on Thursday directed Divisional Commissioner Jammu, and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) to file report regarding construction of educational complex on forest land by former minister within four weeks.The court direction came in a petition filed and argued by Advocate Ankur Sharma, seeking registration of FIR against Ex-BJP Cabinet Minister Abdul Gani Kohli and others, in which petitioner highlighted the encroachment of 10 Kanals Forest Land by Abdul Gani Kohli, former Minister for Animal and Sheep Husbandry J&K Government at Nowabad Sunjwan where he is stated to have raised a huge educational complex comprising a B.Ed College, ETT College, B.N. Para Medical School, B.N. Public School, ATM and branch of J&K Bank.Earlier, the DB directed that a copy of entire paper book including the writ petition and all the status reports on record be made available to the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as well as the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. “They shall scrutinize the entire records and a report be submitted to us after careful and complete scrutiny of not only the court record and status reports but also the relevant records and documents. These officers shall cause a physical inspection of the land to be undertaken and, if necessary, fresh demarcation be conducted by an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner”, the court observed.During the course of hearing, the DB observed that in the report dated June 1, 2016 (page 35), the Senior Superintendent of Police, Vigilance Organization, Jammu has inter alia stated, “Zarina Kohli, wife of A G Kohli through agreement to sell, executed between Sarfaraz Ahmed, son of Mian Bashir Ahmed and Zarina Kohli, wife of A G Kohli on January 3, 2002 for 8 Kanals of land under Khasra No. 356/Min situated at Sunjwan and as per the report of Divisional Forest Officer, Jammu, Khasra No. 356 of Village Nowabad, Sunjwan is forest land, thereby substantiating the basic allegation of the complainant. During visual inspection of the building complex/institution, it was found that a number of Educational Institutions are being run in the building complex under probe. In addition, to these intuitions, it was found that a full-fledged branch of Jammu & Kashmir Bank along with ATM is also located in the aforesaid complex. The matter was taken up with the concerned authorities to ascertain as to how they have entered into a rent/lease agreement with the owners of the building which has been raised on Forest land. In their reply vide No.ZOJC/Genl/732/15*2011 dated September 22, 2015, the lease deed has been executed on 17th of May, 2013 between Abdul Gani Kohli, son of Feroz Din, resident of 105, Channi Himmat, Jammu with Jammu and Kashmir Bank having its registered office at Corporate Headquarter, Mualana Azad Road, Srinagar and the business unit amongst others at Nowabad, Sunjwan. The lease deed has been registered with Sub Registrar, Sub Judge, Jammu and the rent at the rate of Rs.12 per sq. Ft has been fixed with effect from February 2, 2013. A total carpet area measuring 2400 Sq. Ft has been rented out to the J&K Bank. The total rent paid on premises with effect from March 2012 to August 2015 is Rs. 9,42,300. Further, some loans, car loans, term loan mortgage of A.G. Kohli and loan against term deposit have been availed by the owners of the Land/building in question. The banking authorities have stated that they have entered into a lease deed before the competent court and in the lease deed, there is no mention/disclosure of the owner of the complex or any other agency that it has been built on any type of government land. On behalf of J&K Bank, Attorney Holder Pitanjal Sharma, Executive Manager, presently posted in Zonal Office, Jammu has executed the Lease Deed. The enquiries conducted so far have established that the institutions are being owned and managed by the family members of Abdul Gani Kohli, the building complex has been raised on Khasra No. 356 of Village Nowabad, Sunjwan as per the records submitted by the owners to the various authorities and as per the report of Forest Department i.e. DFO Demarcation, Jammu Khasra No. 356 is forest land thereby substantiating the basic allegation. However, the revenue records are still awaited. Further, scrutiny of record i.e. the affiliation files of these Institutions, record pertaining to permission of Para Medical Institution and awaited Revenue records will be conducted to work out the violations being done by the owners, management and Officers/Officials of concerned departments, who have been involved in facilitating the establishment of such institutions in forest land in violation of law.”During the course of hearing, DB observed that its attention was also drawn to the report filed by Shabir Ahmad Malik, Sr. Superintendent of Police, Vigilance Organization, Jammu on March 27, 2017 (page 124), wherein it has been stated that the land was not a forest land but was a public land. It was further submitted by Ankur Sharma that an effort is being made to facilitate the encroachment and appropriation by one of the respondents by changing its status from forest land to state land.DB observed that even if, the report of the Senior Superintendent of Police about land in question claiming that it is state land was to be accepted, it is shocking that he has not only permitted continuation of the encroachment but enable buildings to come up on State land without having taken any action for the same.DB observed that submission made in the CMP No. 48/2014 in PIL No. 19/2011 referring the matter to CBI for conducting an inquiry certainly deserved to be warranted in the facts and circumstances of the case. However, before passing effective orders, more information as has been directed today, is required, it observed.Advocate Ankur Sharma who appeared in person submitted that he has not received copy of the report. Upon this, DB observed that this Court does not understand as to how the Registry has accepted this report without service of advance copy to the other side and directed Registry to remain careful in future.DB observed that another important aspect which is required to be gone into as to how no objections stand granted to run educational institutions and banking facilities in the property constructed on the land which has been encroached. DB also issued notice to the Secretary, Board of School Education, Jammu returnable on 12th March 2020 to explain as to how the ETT institution has been permitted to be run on public/forest land. DB also issued notice to the Secretary, Revenue Department as to how the forest land has been registered in the name of private persons.
Earlier, the DB expressed concern after going through the status report filed by the government regarding Roshni Scheme beneficiaries and observed that it is very shocking state of affairs which had prevailed and the manner in which the land encroachers in Jammu and Kashmir have become owners of large trenches of public land by the operation of aforesaid scheme. According to the status report filed by the government as far as region wise distribution of beneficiaries is concerned, Jammu has 25,000 beneficiaries, Srinagar 4500 whereas in Leh there is no beneficiary. After observing that compliance report is accompanied with affidavit of the Deputy Commissioner, the DB directed that the information which is furnished should be authenticated and also a complete list be filed on record.
DB directed respondents to file an affidavit of an officer not below the rank of Secretary, Revenue Department affirming that the list furnished before the court is correct and complete in all respects. Such Affidavit shall be filed within one week from today, it held.
DB directed the respondents to effect a calculation of the value of the public land which has vested in the encroachers, list whereof has been furnished before the court.
The court would also like to be informed of the division of the land in terms of its classification as urban, rural, forest land or of any other nature, DB said.
Citing a report dated 16th February, 2020 published in the “Business Standard” captioned as “Illegal entries on 659 acres of forest and state land detected in Jammu”, the court observed that perusal of the report shows that the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu has unearthed the illegal entries on the forest and the State land on 659 acres and two places in Jammu and the matter regarding examination of illegal entries is still going on.
DB directed the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu shall ensure that enquiries in to all such entries are effected expeditiously and the Deputy Commissioner, Jammu shall ensure that strict action is taken against the public and private persons who are responsible for these entries.
DB further directed Deputy Commissioner, Jammu to draw the list of the beneficiaries of such fake entries as well as the persons who were placed in the positions of authority, when such fake entries were effected in the revenue records.
DB further directed that all steps for recovering the land which may have been illegally encroached on such fake entries shall be taken forthwith and a report should br filed in this regard.
DB further sought information as to whether there has been any legislation similar to the Jammu and Kashmir Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 enacted by the Central Government or any other legislature in India. Copy whereof shall be placed before us by the counsel for the parties, it added.
During the course of hearing, Advocate Ankur Sharma submitted that list of persons who have been benefitted by the Roshni Scheme includes the names of several public figures and government officials. He also submitted that he will prepare the extract in this regard and place the list before this Court before the next date of hearing. He submitted that he has filed CMP No. 48/2014 in PIL No. 19/2011 in this petition seeking CBI inquiry into the matter for the reason that Comptroller and Auditor General of India had reported that implementation of the Roshni Scheme has resulted in a loss of over Rs 25,000 crore to the public exchequer. Upon this, the DB observed that this matter cannot be ignored under any circumstances and shall be examined on the next date of hearing and the report regarding publication shall be placed before court on the next date of hearing.
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