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Roshni Act: CBI submits ATR in J&K HC, process of hearing review petitions begins

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Jammu: The CBI on Friday submitted its Action Taken Report (ATR) in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on the progress in cases registered to probe alleged irregularities in the Roshni Act as the process of hearing review petitions from various individuals was initiated.

CBI counsel Monika Kohli submitted the status report in a sealed cover before the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Sanjay Dhar.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration had approached the high court with an urgent hearing motion for preponement of the date in the Roshni Act which was scrapped by the court on October 09 by an order and was also declared “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable”. The court had also asked the CBI to probe the allotment of the land under this law.

During the physical hearing, the counsel handed over the ATR in a sealed cover after the court took note of the progress of the investigation carried out by the CBI so far.

Kohli also sought court’s directions to all individuals seeking review of the October 09 case for providing copies of their petition.

The CBI has so far registered nine FIRs, known as Regular Cases (RC) in agency’s parlance, so far in its Jammu and Srinagar branches, besides four Preliminary Enquiries (PEs) to probe the allotment.

The CBI has booked former Jammu and Kashmir minister Taj Mohiuddin in connection with alleged illegal regularisation of encroached forest land in his name under the Roshni Act. The case also names Mohammaed Ramzan Thakur, former Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Mohammed Yousuf Zargar, the then Additional Deputy Commissioner, Hafizullah Shah, the then Assistant Commissioner Revenue and Ghulam Hassan Rather, the then Tehsildar.

It is alleged that the land encroached upon by Mohiuddin belonged to the Forest department which had raised objections to its regularisation under the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act also known as the Roshni Act.

The J&K administration had filed the review petition on December 04 for modification of the nearly two-month-old judgment stating that a large number of common people would suffer unintentionally, including landless cultivators and individuals who are themselves residing in dwellings on small areas.

It said there was a need to distinguish between the common people and the wealthy land grabbers among the beneficiaries, and it favoured that landless labourers or those with one house in personal use be allowed to keep the allotted land under the Roshni Act.

The Supreme Court on Thursday had asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to decide the pleas seeking review of the October 09 verdict scrapping the Roshni Act which had conferred proprietary rights on the occupants of the state land.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana considered the oral assurance of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Jammu and Kashmir administration and said that no coercive action will be taken against those petitioners who have approached the top court in the matter as they are not “land grabbers or unauthorised people”.

The Roshni Act was enacted in 2001 with the twin objective of generating resources for financing power projects and conferment of proprietary rights to the occupants of state land.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the bench said that to avoid conflicting orders, the petitioners should go to high court for review.

“All petitioners should approach the review bench and all of them should be heard by the high court. We will direct accordingly,” the bench observed.

The Roshni Act initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals (102,750 hectares) to the occupants of which only 15.85 percent land was approved for vesting of ownership rights.

On November 01, the Union Territory administration cancelled all land transfers that took place under the Roshni Act.

According to the high court order, a total of 6,04,602 kanals (75,575 acres) of state land had been regularised and transferred to the occupants. This included 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4174 acres) in the Kashmir province.

According to the order, complete identities of “influential people”, including ministers, legislators, bureaucrats, government officials, police officers and businessmen, their relatives or persons holding benami for them, who have derived benefit under the Roshni Act, will be made public within a period of one month.

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