Monday, May 28, 2012

UT land grab: Punjab counsel gets the stick from HC

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, May 23, 2012

Showing little conviction in the Punjab advocate-general's (AG) repeated arguments objecting to a judicial panel to probe grabbing of public land by high-ups in Chandigarh's periphery, the Punjab and Haryana high court directed him to assist the court as a 'friend of the court' and sit with the amicus curiae (lawyer acting as 'friend of the court'), Arun Jain, to finalise the terms of reference for the panel by Thursday.

Retired Supreme Court judge Kuldeep Singh has already given his consent to head the two-member commission or tribunal. However, the bench said that it was also considering if advocate PN Aggarwal, who had expertise in revenue matters, could assist the panel.
When the case came up for arguments before the division bench comprising acting chief justice MM Kumar and justice Alok Singh on Wednesday, AG Ashok Aggarwal reiterated that there was no need to constitute a commission as nobody had questioned the state government's detailed affidavit in which clean chit was handed to all but seven prominent persons alleged to have encroached upon government land in SAS Nagar district.

However, the bench asked him, "How was the public land made private? What was the nature of land before Independence, and how was it changed later? Your affidavit tries to justify that 60 (influential) people have private land."

The bench further added, "When people like Saini (DGP Sumedh Singh Saini) and Badal (chief minister Parkash Singh) are involved, how can we expect that such people will decide against themselves?"

When Aggarwal again argued that there was nothing wrong in the affidavit, the bench asked, "Mr Aggarwal, you know better what is going on." It stated that as the affidavit carried "entries which are nowhere on the record".

"You should have mentioned in the report what as the original nature of land…Let the commission come. It will tell the whole world (what the reality is), and you yourself will be surprised," the bench told Aggarwal.

During the arguments, senior advocate ML Sareen made a submission that he had also been appointed amicus curiae in a similar case by the high court where a huge number of encroachment cases in Punjab had been highlighted. He said that the bench had directed the state to submit the records of all the cases and make efforts to evict illegal encroachers as per the Supreme Court's directions.

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