M. M. Khajooria
As far as the land mafia and Siyasi Sarkari land were concerned, the state appeared to be either privy to their nefarious, activities or otherwise felt constrained to look the other way. Having said that, it may be conceded that provisio-ns of the Act of 2001 by and large conformed to norms and propriety. The Government of the, day also showed sensitivity to public criticism and refrained from framing Rules under the act in haste.The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of ownership to occupants) Act, 2001 mandated selling or regularising of the occupied State Lands at market prices to both, authorised and unauthorised occupants and also provided for auctioning of the vacant state lands publicly.The act was first amended in 2004 by the PDP- Congress coalition Government.That the amendment was meant to serve the vested interests may be illustrated as1) ‘According to Section 2(C) of the original act ‘available State land’ means any State land, which was ‘not in possession of any person or which has been encroached upon by any person.’ The words ‘or which has been encroached upon by any person’ were deleted by 2004 amendment. 2) In terms of Section 3(c), the provision of the Act were not to apply on certain lands which included those earmarked for a specific purpose in any Master Plan. The Section 3 of the Act was also deleted by 2004 amendment. Master plans embodying longterm development perspectives were vital sacrosanct documents drafted by experts after in- depth study, tremendous research and eliciting public opinion. That, the protection provided for land assets earmarked public good was lifted by the coalition to benefit vested interests was beyond any shadow of doubt.3) The 2001 Act provided for sale of State Land through public auction with predetermined Reserve Price. This was strictly in accordance with the general practice and the law as laid down by the Supreme Court. The amendment to the Act and provision in the Roshni Rules shedding option of public auction and fixing prices of different categories violated or rather defied. The above mentioned cardinal principal repeatedly reiterated by the Supreme Court.4) Section 10 of the Act contemplated creation of a separate fund under a proper account number in the J&K Bank in each district to allot an account head in which cost of the land realised under, this act should be deposited. No such Fund or account was created. Instead amounts were deposited in Treasuries. The revenue authorities didn’t even bother to conduct any reconciliation with concerned treasuries. The CAG Report lamented that in status report in respect of Jammu district showed collection of Rs 9.35 Crore but the treasury receipts’ attached with the application forms indicated receipt only Rs 8.33 Crore. An amount of more than one crore was unaccounted for.5) Section 5(b) of the Act, passed in 2001 provided that only such, occupants seeking transfer of ownership were eligible to apply who had been in actual physical possession of the land during the period from 1 January 1990 to the commencement ofthe Act in a particular area. Thus the original Act (2001) limited the’ benefit of the scheme only to the long-term occupants. Under the 2004 Amendment to the Act, all those occupants who were in actual physical possession of the land, either personally or through their authorised agents, on the commencement of 2004 Amendment Act were made eligible to apply, irrespective of the length of period of occupation. This opened fresh flood gate for feverish land grabbing especially by those who had failed to do so earlier. Their nefarious designs were further facilitated by allegedly deliberate delay in the publication of the amendment in the Government gazette by about two months. Even though the Governor had given his assent on 19th March, 2004, the amendments published in the gazette on 21st May, 2004. The act was tocome into force on the date of its publication in the Government Gazette.The act stipulated that rules for the proper implementation of the act would be framed by the executive and required no ratification by the legislature. The Government notified Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Owners hip to the Occupants Rules) on 25th August, 2005 about four years after the enactment which were amended on 23rd November, 2006 and again on 5th March, 2007. Even a cursory reading would reveal that the rules framed under the act for its implementation were repugnant to the parent act and violated its stated scope and objectives. For instance, the Roshni Rules authorised agricultural lands free of cost, which was beyond the scope, objectives and mandatory provisions of the act. This, according to CAG report enabled a large portion of non-agricultural land, 3.4 lakh Kanals to be precise, being dubiously shown as agricultural which was ‘gifted’ to favoured occupants for obvious consideration. The Government claimed that 19 lakh cultivators would benefit from the rule was not only absurd but a downright lie. Erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state had less than 16 lakh,cultivators and only 16.27 per cent of them were known to have encroached upon Government land.
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