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SC asks J&K govt to not demolish houses of beneficiaries under the ‘illegal’ Roshni Act, refuses to stay the order on removal of encroachments

Notably, on January 9, the Jammu and Kashmir government asked all deputy commissioners to remove encroachments on government land, Roshni Land and Kachharie land, by January 31, 2023.

Muzaffar Iqbal Khan, the advocate appearing for the beneficiaries under the ‘illegal’ Roshni Act, was quoted by ANI as saying on Friday, January 20, that the Supreme Court has told the Centre not to take any action against the land beneficiaries. He added that the apex court has urged the central govt not to remove the beneficiaries under the Roshni Act from their home. The matter has been listed for the next hearing on January 31, 2023.

The court also refused to stay a circular issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government directing authorities to remove encroachments on state lands including Roshni Land and Kachharie land by January 31, 2023.

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea seeking a stay on a circular issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government that directed the removal of all encroachment on land owned by the Union Territory, including those under the Roshni Act.

According to Khan, the court has sought an explanation from the Centre and has directed the government not to take any action till they provide one to the court.

Notably, on Monday, the Supreme Court consented to hear an urgent plea seeking a stay on a circular issued by the Jammu and Kashmir administration ordering the demolition of all illegal encroachments on government land, including those under the Roshni Act.

After being notified that the petition was urgent and that Justice Sanjiv Khanna had recused himself from hearing it, a Bench chaired by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud consented to review and list it.

Notably, on January 9, the Jammu and Kashmir government asked all deputy commissioners to remove encroachment on such land by January 31, 2023. Residents had been instructed to either demolish the structures themselves or incur the costs of demolition.

The Roshni Act and its subsequent misuse 

The Roshni Act came into existence in 2001 under the former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad with the proposed twin objective of generating revenues for power projects in the state and conferring property rights to occupants of state-owned land. It was expected that the move will boost the agriculture sector and will generate substantial revenue for the state.

Initially, the Roshni Act allowed the illegal occupants of state lands up to 1990 to own the land after paying the price of Rs 20 lakh per Kanal. However, in 2005, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government brought amendments in the Roshni Act that allowed illegal occupants up to 2004 to own the state-owned land at the meagre price of 10 to 15 % of the actual price for commercial and residential properties and a paltry Rs 100 per Kanal for agricultural land.

Over the years, there were allegations that the Roshni Act was aiding in rampant attempts to a demographic invasion of Jammu and Ladakh. Additionally, there were complaints of the misuse of the Act.

In 2016, the then Principal Accountant General (PAG) called the Roshni Act in Jammu and Kashmir the biggest land scam in the country.

The same year, the Jammu and Kashmir government announced that it will initiate a probe into alleged irregularities under the Act after the Revenue minister informed that instead of the expected Rs 25,000 crores, the Act had generated only Rs 78.47 crores for the government.

In November 2018, the then-governor of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir Satya Pal Malik repealed the ‘illegal’ Act.

In October 2020, the Roshni Act was declared ‘null and void’ and pegged to be the biggest scam in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. Under the act, disproportionate concessions were extended for the regularisation of land conversion at a substantially lower charge than the stipulated rates and the cut-off year kept getting shifted.

The Court issued an order on October 31, 2020, in which it alleged that thousands of acres of forest land and government land were illegally occupied, encroached and usurped by influential politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and judicial officers all over the State, under the Act that was passed by the Farooq Abdullah government in 2001.

The list of beneficiaries under the ‘illegal’ Roshni Act includes names of former PDP minister, Congress leader, Farooq Abdullah

The Jammu and Kashmir administration, the same year, made public on its website the list of land beneficiaries under the Roshni Act. The list was published in accordance with the court order and the beneficiaries included former state ministers, retired civil servants and politicians.

The list names former J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Draboo, Congress leader and hotelier KK Amla, Business Tycoon Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya, retired IAS officer Mohd Shafi Pandit and several others as land beneficiaries of the ‘illegal’ Roshni Act.

Besides, the list which is prepared on the directions of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court also names former Congress minister and ex-Doda MLA Abdul Majid Wani and former chairman of J&K Bank M Y Khan.

As per reports, former J and K CM Farooq Abdullah has also been named as one of the beneficiaries of the Roshni Act where influential and politically connected people received lands. Abdullah had encroached upon government land in Sunjawan in Jammu. His private residence is built upon government land, as per the details put by the J and K administration.

According to reports, in 1998, Abdullah bought 3 kanals of land from private owners. However, while taking possession, he had also encroached upon 7 kanals of forest land and government land in the surrounding areas. The present worth of those lands is estimated at around 10 crores.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
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