Wednesday, November 27, 2013

JUSTICE KULDIP SINGH SPECIAL TRIBUNAL REPORT PART XII: Punjab Land Grab - Tribunal advocates Special High Court Bench, CBI probe

In the concluding report today, The Tribune reproduces operative portions of the Tribunal's all-encompassing recommendations

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 20

The Special Tribunal headed by Justice Kuldip Singh has recommended that some authority like CBI should be entrusted with the criminal investigations into the “land grab cases” involving public lands in Punjab villages around Chandigarh. It also stated that the High Court may consider constituting a Special Bench to monitor all the issues arising out of the two reports of the Tribunal.

Justice Kuldip Singh, which meticulously went into the revenue records of these villages before filing his two reports stated that the investigation, findings and recommendations of the Tribunal would be of no consequence unless these were examined in detail by the High Court after giving notice to the parties concerned and issuing binding orders to State Government and its officers. "Prima facie it has been found that several officers who had either passed patently illegal, erroneous, and malafide orders, are more or less involved in the Land Grabbing process."

In the last week of May, 2012, the Double Bench of the Punjab & Haryana High Court ordered the setting up of Special Tribunal comprising of former Judge of the Supreme Court Justice Kuldip Singh and advocate PN Aggarwal. The Tribunal took six months to take off as the Punjab Government dilly-dallied on providing infrastructure and other facilities required to it to become functional. Later the state also moved the Supreme Court against the setting up of the Tribunal.

The Tribunal has made several recommendations to retrieve what has been taken away from village panchayats in the past 30 years or so. It stated, "We are of the considered view that that a “land grab scam” is operating specially in the Punjab villages in the periphery of Chandigarh. Several cases have come before us where the governmental authorities have taken indifferent attitude towards a patent fraud being committed in respect of such lands. The Director / Additional Directors of Consolidation in collusion with the revenue officers and the right holders have passed orders which are patently illegal and smack of fraud, collusion and conspiracy. The work of protecting Panchayat/ Government/ Public lands cannot be left to the governmental authorities. "We made several recommendations in our First Report dated 11.3.2013.

The State Government made a statement before the High Court it would accept most of the recommendations. It is submitted that apart from the paper work, nothing practical has been done by the State Government.

"Special officers with the powers of Collector and Commissioner in terms of the various special Acts dealing with the land matters be created as exclusive courts/ authority to deal with the pending as well as the fresh cases pertaining to the land laws. In each district one special court on the pattern “Fast Track Courts” should be created to deal with criminal cases. Likewise in each Division, one Commissioner’s Court be created to deal with the appeal/ revision etc.

"The orders of the Civil Courts/ Consolidation and Revenue Authorities which were prima facie illegal and based on fraud/ collusion and conspiracy - though never challenged, should be reopened and decided afresh by the High Court in exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction and by invoking suo moto powers.

The High Court may consider constituting a Special Bench to monitor the above said cases. All those persons/ societies/ corporations etc., who are shown to be in possession of the above said land in terms of the latest jamabandi entries, must be dispossessed.

"The officers/ officials of the Revenue/ Consolidation Departments, who are found to be involved during investigations by a competent independent authority, be punished suitably along with the persons who took possession of the lands and enjoyed it illegally over the years.

"It has been observed during the course of our functioning that the institution of Patwaris/ Kanungos, is reputed to be highly corrupt. We are, therefore, strongly of the view that the cadres of Patwaris and Kanungos should be totally abolished in a phased manner and some other official by the name of Revenue Inspector or the like, directly under the control of the Collector, be substituted. The Punjab Land Revenue Act needs a fresh look and comprehensive amendment.

"We further recommend that with a view to safeguard the income derived from the Shamlat land to the Gram Panchayats, the overall supervision of the Shamlat land should be entrusted to the Collector of the District by way of an appropriate amendment. There should be regular audit of the Shamlat lands."

Exposing the modus operandi of land grabbers,the Tribunal stated that a consolidation Officer/ Revenue Officer was roped-in to pass a sham order determining the shares of the right holders in the Shamlat/Panchayat deh land. The Patwari entered the mutation on the basis of the said order and the Naib Tehsildar sanctioned the mutation exercising the powers of Assistant Collector, 2nd Grade. The shares were then sold by way of Power of Attorneys or even by outright sale deeds to outsiders. The shares which were sold, were also wrongly determined in the revenue record. No partition of the land by metes and bounds took place and no Nishandehi (demarcation) the area was done. The grabbers took possession of the area of their choice. Thereafter, applications for correction of girdawari or even entries in the jamabandis were made which were promptly decided in their favour.


Copyright : The Tribune Trust, 2012

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