Saturday, May 21, 2016

HC tells govt: appoint authorities to halt agri-land conversion

By M A Parray on May 21, 2016

Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Friday directed the government to appoint two authorities, one each in Srinagar and Jammu, for the implementation of local laws and Supreme Court directions regarding non-conversion of agriculture land as well as for freeing Kahcharie (pasture) land of encroachments.

More than 3,40,000 kanals of agriculture land has been converted for other purposes, mostly constructions, in the past four years alone, showing government’s failure to curb the alarming trend.

As soon as the hearing in a Public Interest Litigation started, a bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey suggested to advocate general DC Raina that the government may constitute the two authorities, which could be the Divisional Commissioners of each division, for implementation of the Land Revenue Act, Agrarian Reforms Act and other allied legislations, Supreme Court directions in Jagpal Singh and Others Vs State of Punjab besides orders passed by the high court from time to time.

The advocate general responded in affirmative and subsequently the court directed the government to pass necessary orders for appointing the authorities.

“The authorities shall, besides monitoring the implementation of the relevant laws, also evolve a mechanism for the protection and preservation of the retrieved land,” the court said and directed the authorities to file compliance report after every two months before the Registrars Judicial of both the wings of the High Court.

The Land Revenue and Agrarian Reforms Acts empower the revenue authorities to stop the conversion of the land for other uses such as construction of houses, etc., and take action against the violators.

“Any person would be at liberty to approach the court with the grievances or complaints that the judgment is not being implemented and or compliance report filed is not correct. On such a motion the Court may then initiate contempt proceedings against the authorities concerned,” the court said while disposing of the PIL— Human Watch (Regd) International Vs State & others, seeking implementation of the Land Revenue Act, Agrarian Reforms Act, J&K Alienation of the Land Act and other applicable legislations to stop the alarming conversion of the farmland.

Any person, the court said, would be at liberty to approach the Divisional Commissioner of each division about the violation of the laws and encroachments made in State land, Shamilat or Khacharie land.

The apex court (in the Jagpal Singh and others v. State of Punjab and others, 2011) has laid down that illegalities committed in nature of usurpation of Common Lands of the village communities cannot be regularized and the common interest of the villagers cannot be made to suffer merely because the unauthorized occupation has subsisted for many years.

It had directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to formulate the schemes for eviction of illegal and unauthorised occupants of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat, Shamilat Land for the common use of villagers.

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