*Field functionaries in Kashmir await orders from top brass
JAMMU, Feb 11: After being reprimanded by the Division Bench of State High Court on dilly-dallying approach, the Divisional Commissioner Jammu has issued directions for retrieval of encroached State land in the length and breadth of the region. However, the field functionaries in Kashmir valley have yet not been issued any such order by the top brass till date despite the fact that provincial heads will have to appear in person before the High Court along with the Action Taken Report (ATR) on February 21.
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which was based on EXCELSIOR report whereby encroachments on over 20 lakh kanals of State land in both the regions of Jammu and Kashmir were highlighted, both the Divisional Commissioners on the directions of Division Bench of State High Court had submitted in 13 volumes the district-wise encroachments and the list of encroachers.
These 13 volumes were kept in the custody of the Registrar Judicial in pursuance to the directions issued by the Division Bench of the High Court. Notwithstanding numerous directions from by the highest court in the State for eviction drive, the dilly-dallying approach continued from all the concerned authorities despite the fact that there are sufficient provisions under the Land Revenue Act for removal of encroachments.
What to talk of other concerned authorities even directions were issued to the Chief Secretary for working out mechanism to retrieve such a huge land from the encroachers but every time the issue was brushed under the carpet by launching small scale anti-encroachment drives instead of going whole hog against the encroachers particularly the big sharks.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the Division Bench of State High Court comprising Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice B S Walia on December 30, 2016 had issued directions for personal appearance of Divisional Commiss-ioners of both the regions on February 21, 2017 for submitting an affidavit as to whether they have the copies of the report containing 13 volumes indicating the list of encroachments.
Moreover, the DB had observed that a final decision in this grave issue should be taken by the Divisional Commissio-ners in consultation with the Secretary to Government, Department of Revenue as to how to proceed in the matter.
Now, ahead of personal appearance before the Division Bench the Divisional Commissioner Jammu Dr Pawan Kotwal has issued directions to the Deputy Commissioners for start of eviction drive on ‘large scale’ by issuing notices to the encroachers, sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “even today the Divisional Commissioner had meeting with the Deputy Commissioners through video-conferencing on the subject and asked them to leave no stone unturned to get back encroached land by gearing up all the concerned field functionaries”.
“I have issued explicit directions to the Deputy Commissioners and field functionaries have already started issuing eviction notices to the encroachers”, Dr Pawan Kotwal said when contacted, adding “the Deputy Commissioners have also been asked to constitute Tehsil, Sub-Division and Block wise teams to carry out this vital task”.
However, no such directions have been issued to the field functionaries in Kashmir valley by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan. “As you know there was unrest in entire Valley as such we could not start the drive”, he said when contacted.
“I am going to take meeting of Deputy Commissioners within a day or two so as to pass them explicit directions to implement the directions of Division Bench of State High Court”, he said, adding “if not thorough exercise we can at least start drive in phases to retrieve the encroached land”.
However, there was no justification behind taking the plea of unrest for not starting eviction drive as since the last direction of the Division Bench of the High Court the situation was normal in all the parts of Kashmir valley, sources remarked.
They further said, “even if there are no directions from the Division Bench for start of eviction drive the field functionaries of the Revenue Department are empowered under the Land Revenue Act to take action against the encroachers of the State land”, adding “it is a matter of serious concern that neither the directions of highest court of Jammu and Kashmir are being complied with strictly nor the provisions of Land Revenue Act are being implemented especially when the list of encroachers is already available with the heads of both the provinces of the State”.
It is pertinent to mention here that even Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai, while appreciating the concern raised in the PIL on last date of hearing, had claimed that State Government was equally concerned about the massive encroachment on the State land and this issue can be addressed by both the Divisional Commissioners in consultation with the Revenue Secretary.
“However, the dilly-dallying approach has proved his statement made before the Division Bench of State High Court as wrong”, sources remarked.