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Roshni Act: HC orders CBI probe, declares all allotments invalid  

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Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into Roshni scam even as it declared all allotments made under the legislation “void” from the beginning.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of the court headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal declared the legislation as unconstitutional.

The court, also comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal, ordered that the investigation of the scam be transferred to the CBI which will file the status report within eight weeks.

The court, as per Global News Service, asked Chief Secretary to ensure uninterrupted investigation which will also be directed against those officers in whose tenures the encroachments had happened.

It said all Deputy Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners will be held for contempt of court if they do not cooperate with the investigation. A detailed judgment in the cases was awaited.

The top court, had previously termed as “shocking the state of affairs” in the manner in which the land encroachers in Jammu and Kashmir become owners of large trenches of public land by the operation of the Roshni Scheme.

“It is pointed out that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had reported that implementation of the Roshni Scheme has resulted in a loss over Rupees Twenty Five Thousand Crores to the public exchequer,” the court had said.

The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 (known as the Roshni Scheme) was enacted in 2001 by the then State Government after the assent of the Governor on 9th November, 2001. The object of the Act was “to provide vesting of ownership rights to the occupants of the State land for the purposes of generating funds to finance power projects in the State”.

The enactment was repealed on 28th November 2018 by the State Administrative Council (SAC) led by then Governor, annulling the Roshni Scheme after concluding that it had not served “its purpose” and was “no longer relevant in the present context.”

The principle objective of the Act was to raise resources for investment in power sector and the Government had estimated (November 2006) resource mobilization of about Rs. 25448 crores by selling 2064972 kanals state land under unauthorized occupation. However, it was pointed out by CAG (2014 report) that only Rs. 76.24 crore (24 percent) were realized against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore raised by the end of march, 2013 in the actual transfer of 348160 kanals in the State.

“Thus, the principle objective of the Act –raising of resources for investment in power sector was not achieved though the state has lost sizeable lands,” the court had observed previously.

Of this, the major portion (3,40,091 Kanals) has been categorized as “agricultural” and hence transferred free of cost. Balance is residential use: 6949 Kanals, commercial use: 990 Kanals and Institutional use: 130 Kanals. In 547 cases covering revenue of 31.53 percent (Rs. 100.12 crore out of Rs. 317.54 crore) of the total transfers approved in the state and 0.19 per cent of land i.e. 666 kanals out of 3,48,160 kanals of land, the statutory committees had fixed the price at Rs.325.39 crore at an average rate of Rs.48.46 lakh per kanal (before allowing rebates and incentives). After allowing the discounts over the land price fixed by the statutory committees, the applicants were asked to pay only Rs.100.12 crore. Thus there was a loss of Rs.225.26 crore to the State Exchequer. Further, after transfer of 3,48,160 kanals under the Act, new encroachments are continuing unabated as area of public lands under encroachment was 20,46,972 kanals in March, 2013 as against 20,64,972 kanals in November 2006.  (GNS)

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