HC flays ‘sickening irregularities’ in land acquisition for Pahalgam Golf Course
Seeks report from govt
Srinagar, Jul 02: The J&K High Court on Tuesday directed the government to submit a report into the case relating to ‘sickening irregularities’ in the process of acquisition of land for expansion of Golf Course at Pahalgam.
A division bench hearing a public interest petition directed the concerned authorities to inform the court about the process of investigation into the FIR relating to gross irregularities and illegalities in the process of acquisition of land for expansion of Golf Course project.
The High Court had previously pulled up the Revenue department for its “casual” approach on final award of compensation observing that the officials have manipulated the records to pay compensation to the “ingenuine” persons.
Disapproving the approach adopted by the authorities for not taking any curative action before the final award despite a note of explicit caution by the Tourism department about the initial list of land holdings, the court said “it has caused a huge loss to the exchequer”.
On the allegations of petitioners that bureaucrats and powerful persons were paid compensation unjustifiably, the court did say “it appears to be a case where public interest and patronage has gone hand in glove and consequence is natural loss to the public exchequer”.
In 2004, a proposal was moved by the Tourism department for expansion of the Pahalgam Golf Course and placed an indent for acquisition/transfer of 61 kanals 13 marlas of land in Laripora village and 378 kanals 10 marlas of land situated between the Pahalgam Maize Farm and the proposed Deer Park with the Deputy Commissioner Anantnag.
On April 01, 2006, 364 kanals were handed over to Tourism department.
Subsequently, Tourism department in a communication to Revenue authorities sounded a caution that land belonging to state in the documents submitted by Tehsildar Pahalgam for placing indent has been expropriated as its nature was changed from Shamilat Najaiz/state land to Shamilat Jaiz.
The department said that in disregard of law/rules, land has already been acquired by the state and it continued to be under the possession of private individuals. It further mentioned that some persons had been allotted the alternate land in lieu of their portions of land and no mutation to the effect was made in Revenue records.
According to the court “without any records available about the follow-up action taken on observations of DC Central, the acquisition proceeding were finalized and final award made on 23-5-2008 with compensation of Rs 15,28,43,625 for apportionment among interested persons and the amount was deposited with Collector Land Acquisition, Anantnag”.
While compensation as per awards was being paid to claimants and an amount of Rs 7,53,7,385 was disbursed, an FIR no. 1/2009 was registered in Police Station Vigilance Organization Kashmir.
During the investigation, certain discrepancies were noticed particularly that the award had been wrongly passed and published and those who were not owners of the land were held entitled for compensation.
The State Chief Secretary, in his previous report to the court informed that the FIR has already been registered against the erring officials of the Revenue department including the then Assistant Collector for manipulating and changing the nature of the land in question.
He further submitted that excess amount paid to the beneficiaries for “Najaiz Shamilat” land shall be made by the erring Assistant Collector as arrears of the land revenue under the provision of ‘Land Revenue Act’.
“The Revenue department has been asked to initiate necessary steps for recovery of the excess amount paid if any,” his report said.