Wednesday, January 29, 2014
JUSTICE KULDIP SINGH REPORT - Land grab on UT periphery: HC asks Punjab to clarify stand
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 27
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked Punjab Government to specify its stand on appointing a senior-level officer to look into the findings of Justice Kuldip Singh in land grab cases in Chandigarh’s periphery.
As the case came up for hearing, the Division Bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Fateh Deep Singh directed the state government to explain by February 10 whether it was ready to consider the reports as prima facie evidence of encroachment on panchayat land or not.
The Bench also made it clear that the officer, if appointed, would be given powers of a collector exercising jurisdiction under the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961.
The Court made it clear that the issue of granting extension to the tribunal would be taken up on the next date of hearing. The state has been asked not to notify the name without its approval.
As the case came up for hearing, the Court asked Punjab Additional Advocate-General Rita Kohli to specify “whether the state was ready to confer the power of a collector on a senior functionary of the state government to exercise jurisdiction under the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, treating the report of the tribunal as prima facie evidence of encroachment of panchayat land”.
Facing allegations of maintaining double standards on probe in land grab matters, the Punjab Government had, on the previous date of hearing, tried to defend its action of setting up a second panel by claiming that it was constituted to suggest a strategy for retrieval of encroached land.
In an affidavit, the state said the second report of Justice Kuldip Singh panel had mentioned illegal transfer and possession of public land in more than 30 villages in Chandigarh’s periphery, including large chunks being used for commercial purposes.
The affidavit said scrutiny of revenue record was necessary to arrive at the precise particulars of lands encroached upon, and to suggest a strategy for its retrieval.
“It was also felt desirable to prepare an inventory of public land in other villages of Mohali and ascertain the status regarding ownership and possession with a view to taking measures for retrieval of public land that might have been distributed through illegal transactions,” the affidavit read.