Comunidades hail Supreme Court order
The Supreme Court on Monday declared transfer of village community land for private and commercial use as illegal and directed the states to take immediate steps to evict encroachers.
It directed the state governments to prepare schemes for eviction of illegal occupants of village community land and restore them back for the purpose it was originally meant for.
The scheme must provide for speedy eviction, it said. "Long duration of such illegal occupation or huge expenditure in making constructions thereon or political connections must not be treated as a justification for condoning this illegal act or for regularizing the illegal possession," said a bench comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra. The order is applicable with retrospective effect.
'Goa needs special status under Art 244'
Goa has 223 comunidades on paper, out of which, around 120 are functioning. Goa is perhaps one of the few places in where village comunidades (communities) are absolute land owners.
‘Government is systematically destroying communidades’
"The government is systematically destroying the communidades. Recently, an amendment was made where anybody (and this was being used even by officials who were posted in Goa) could file an affidavit stating that he/she did not own a house in the state and could get a plot allocated on communidade land," Mr Joao Paul Pereira, the committee convenor, told media at a press conference held on Friday.
The committee of which three members – Mr August Monteiro and Vasco de Gama besides Mr Pereira were present for the press conference – also alleged that the Collector had authorised an official who was acting as the administrator to open an account, which could be operated singly.
The committee also criticised the circular of the Collector, Mr G P Naik stopping all payments to lawyers.
"According to the Code of the Communidades any account had to be operated by three signatories," pointed out Mr Pereira, arguing that this was in total violation of the Code and a legal notice had already been sent.
"From 1983, the government has been taking money from the communidades. But, till date the accounts have not been audited and we do not know how the money has been spent," the convenor of the standing committee, Mr Pereira told media, adding, "we had agreed to given them 10 per cent of our earnings for administrative expenses.
However, the administrator’s office has not agreed with us and they arbitrarily increase the staff salaries without even consulting us. And for the past three years, the Collector has not signed cheques for dividend payments."
Going back to encroachments, the committee charged that the administrator was not taking action against any of them, the icing on the cake was the circular sent to the communidade attorneys asking them to file FIRs against the encroachers.
"All powers lie with the administrator. And he is pushing the onus on the attorney, who has no powers," said Mr Pereira again reiterating his allegation that the government was systematically destroying the communidades.
'Comunidade land encroached upon'
Referring to a Supreme Court directive to all state governments which stated that all encroachers upon public land be evicted and the property reclaimed, the standing committee members charged the state government with failing to act upon the directives, and threatened to move the court over the matter.