JAMMU, Dec 30: In the much publicized Public Interest Litigation (PIL) highlighting encroachment of State land by the powerful land mafia in league with politicians, revenue and police officials, Division Bench of the State High Court comprising First Puisne Judge Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice B S Walia has directed both the Divisional Commissioners to appear in person on February 21, 2017.
They have also been directed to submit an affidavit as to whether they have received the copies of the report containing 13 volumes indicating the list of encroachments so as to enable the Division Bench to pass further orders on next date of hearing.
After hearing Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed with Advocates Irfaan Mohd Khan, Supriya Chouhan and Rahul Raina appearing for the petitioner whereas Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai with Senior AAG Seema Khajooria Shekhar and Deputy AG Ehsan Mirza appearing for the State Government, the Division Bench observed, “the core issue is that the Divisional Commissioners have submitted the records before this court in 13 volumes and it is stated to be in the custody of Registrar Judicial of this court. These are all relating to probable lands of the State which have been encroached”.
“However, a final decision in the matter should be taken by the Divisional Commissioners as to how to proceed in the matter in consultation with the Revenue Secretary”, the DB said.
Earlier, when the PIL came up for hearing, Advocate Ahmed drew the attention of the Division Bench towards order dated September 4, 2013 whereby both the Divisional Commissioners had been directed to disclose the names and particulars of all those persons who have grabbed almost 20 lakh kanals of State land. The DB had also directed that it will take a view for further course of action when the encroachers are identified.
“The DB vide its order dated February 19, 2014 had expressed its displeasure over the silence of the State Chief Secretary for not taking any stand with regard to the future course of action concerning the huge encroachment on the State land”, Advocate Ahmed said, adding “the Division Bench had directed the Chief Secretary to file his stand failing which he shall remain present in person to explain his conduct”.
“Despite repeated directions from the Division Bench the Chief Secretary has not bothered to come up with a mechanism to suggest measures for retrieving the State land from the illegal occupants”, he said, adding “despite identification of the encroachers no serious attempt has been made by the functionaries of the Revenue Department to retrieve the State land from the illegal occupants”.
Advocate Ahmed further submitted that whenever an eviction drive is initiated the authorities intentionally target poor people having few marlas of land and deliberately a situation is created to win the sympathy of the masses and thereafter the eviction drive is suspended citing law and order problems in order to favour ‘Big Sharks’. “Bulldozer must start from VIPs/Big Wigs who have encroached big chunks of State land and periodic reports should be summoned from both the Divisional Commissioners regarding the eviction drive”, he added.
At this stage, Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai assisted by Senior AAG Seema Khajooria Shekhar and Deputy Advocate General Ehsan Mirza stated that State Government was equally concerned about the massive encroachment of the State land.
“There is no need for issuing any direction to the Chief Secretary as the issue can be addressed by both the Divisional Commissioners in consultation with the Revenue Secretary and a mechanism can be evolved for retrieving the State land from illegal occupants”, Advocate General said.
Deputy Advocate General Ehsan Mirza appearing for the Revenue Department submitted that there are adequate provisions in the Land Revenue Act for removal of encroachments and he has also referred some cases where Deputy Commissioners in Jammu Province have started the eviction drive.