HC rejects quashing of FIR in allotment of forest land to Taj Mohi-ud-Din

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, May 8: High Court today rejected to quash FIR against the high ranking officials of Revenue Department, who alleged to have transferred the forest land in favour of senior Congress leader Taj Mohi-ud-Din.
The allegation that the then Deputy Commissioner, Shopian Mohammad Ramzan Thakur, Additional Deputy Commissioner  Mohammad Yousuf Zargar, Assistant Commissioner (Revenue)  Hafizullah Shah and the then Tehsildar, Shopian Ghulam Hassan Rather in connivance with each other and also the beneficiary Taj Mohi-ud-Din had abused their official position and had illegally conferred ownership rights upon Taj Mohi-ud-Din over the forest land.
“In view of the foregoing analysis, I do not find any case for interference with the investigation in FIR No.18/2016 registered at Vigilance Organization, Kashmir. Accordingly, the petition is found to be without merit, hence dismissed”, Justice Sanjeev Kumar concluded.
Court also added that if the allegations contained in the FIR, as found substantiated in the preliminary verification that the forest land has been made subject matter of conferring ownership rights to Taj Mohiuddin by abuse of the powers conferred upon the petitioners as Revenue Officers under the Act of 2001, are proved to be correct and substantiated during the investigation, it would definitely disclose the commission of offence both under the J&K Prevention of Corruption Act as well as Section 120-B RPC.
Revenue officials approached the Court for seeking  quashing of FIR No.18/2016 registered with Police Station, Vigilance Organization, Kashmir.
Taj Mohi-ud-Din who had been a Cabinet Minister twice and an eminent leader of Congress party approached the then Tehsildar Shopian with an application and affidavit for vesting of ownership rights with respect to land measuring 13 kanal 16 marlas under Khasra Nos.4/1 and 1162/709 situated at Sedow, Shopian in terms of the Jammu and Kashmir  State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001.
Petitioners have assailed the impugned FIR on the ground that the same has been lodged with malafide intention of defaming and harming the ex-Minister by his rivals and in the process the petitioners too have been unnecessarily and without any basis dragged in.
In their objections, it has been stated that the FIR was registered only after the allegations with regard to the encroachment of forest land at Sedow, Shopian adjacent to world famous tourist spot at Aharbal were found substantiated in preliminary verification conducted by the Vigilance Organization.
Subsequently, on the directions of this Court, a status report was also filed by the respondents in which the steps taken by the investigating agency to investigate the matter have been indicated.
In the status report it is also revealed that during the course of investigation, the matter was taken up with the Deputy Commissioner, Shopian for obtaining the original record pertaining to the illegal conferment of the ownership rights in favour of the beneficiary but the office of the Deputy Commissioner intimated that the record of the office of Deputy Commissioner, Shopian had been destroyed due to arson   by unruly mob. However, some Photostat documents as were retrieved from concerned Tehsil office have been provided to the Vigilance Organization.
Court said, the allegations against the petitioners are serious in nature and the same pertained to conferring ownership rights of forest land in favour of a very influential person by abusing the powers conferred upon the petitioners under the provisions of the Act of 2001.
“The allegations contained in the FIR do prima facie make out a case for investigation and thorough probe. Registration of FIR does not mean that the allegations contained therein are substantiated. FIR is nothing but a first information given to the investigating authority to set the investigative machinery in motion”, read the judgment.
Court further added, the truth and veracity of the allegations is, however, required to be verified during the course of investigation and whether the allegations contained in the FIR are true or false or even actuated by mala fide is a matter which is required to be determined during the course of investigation.
Court said, the attempt to scuttle the investigation at its inception is more than often counterproductive to the accused and if they claim to be innocent, should be interested to see that a free and fair investigation in the matter is conducted and the allegations are properly verified.
Court said, it is not understandable as to how the scuttling of investigation at its very inception would inure to the benefit of the accused.
“Having said so, I have carefully gone through the whole record including the status report filed by the Vigilance Organization, Kashmir and find that the allegations contained in the FIR do disclose commission of cognizable offence which needs thorough investigation and probe”, Justice Kumar said.
“Whether the order passed by the petitioner in their capacity as Revenue officers was in their bonafide exercise of power; whether it is a case of wrong judgment; whether there was conspiracy amongst the petitioners and the beneficiary; are the matters which can only be verified during the course of investigation. Viewed from any angle, it is in the interest of all including the petitioners to allow the Vigilance Organization to go ahead with its probe”, Justice Kumar said.