Jammu/New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has agreed to hear an urgent petition against Jammu and Kashmir Government’s order of removing alleged encroachments from the state land before January 31.
It may be mentioned that during pendency of several petitions before the Supreme Court and High Court challenging Roshni orders, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has launched a massive land retrieval operation across the Union Territory.
With the residents being told to either demolish the structures on their own or bear the expenses for the demolition, there is a panic among the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, some of whom have been living on the land for more than one century.
Even as the anti-encroachment drive continues across the union territory, the door of the supreme court were knocked once again.
A Bench which was led by Chief Justice of India Justice DY Chandrachud was informed that the matter was urgent. He was also informed Justice Sanjiv Khanna had recused from hearing it. The chief justice has then agreed to examine the plea and list it.
The supreme court, in the past, when told that matter was also being heard in the high court of Jammu and Kashmir, had said that it would let the high court decide first.
In 2001, the Jammu & Kashmir government had enacted a law called the Jammu & Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 (popularly known as the Roshni Act) for granting ownership of state land to unauthorized occupants in order to raise funds for power projects in the erstwhile State. However, in 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court declared the Act unconstitutional, ordered a CBI probe into the Roshni land scam case.
A number of review petitions were filed against the judgment in the high court, besides Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) in the Supreme Court of India. A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in December 2020, refrained from hearing the matter right away after noting that review petitions against the Judgment had already been filed before the High Court. There cannot be parallel proceedings on the same subject matter, the top Court had noted. At the time, the Jammu and Kashmir government had assured the Supreme Court that no coercive action will be taken against those who have approached the top court against the High Court verdict scrapping the Roshni Act.
The J&K government itself filed a review petition, desiring slight modifications to formulate a policy for poor people who are having small dwelling houses and also for landless agriculturist category.
In its review petition, the government has said that a large number of common people including landless cultivators and individuals who are themselves residing in dwellings in small areas, would suffer unintentionally.
“They are unfortunately clubbed along with the rich and wealthy land grabbers who have obtained a title over the state land through the provisions of the now-struck down act. There is a need to distinguish between these two classes of people. The fact of being either a landless cultivator or householder with at most one dwelling house in the personal use would be the primary criteria for differentiating between the two classes,” said the petition filed in the court.
“The government may be permitted at a future date to come up with an appropriate mechanism to enable this class of landless cultivators and single dwelling owners to continue to remain in possession of land, subject of course to an appropriate ceiling and on payment at an appropriate rate. However, there will be no relief, whatsoever for encroachers above these celings, or those who have built commercial properties over government land. No relief would also be provided to any other category such as institutional, commercial use and the title to the land would vest with the government,” it added.
However, with the Jammu & Kashmir government initiating the mega encroachment removal drive last week, the doors of the supreme court were knocked again.
Large tracks, high-value land target of anti-encroachment drive; poor people not on priority: Bidhuri