DOST KHAN / ANCHOR
The historic judgment by J&K High Court on the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Rules, 2007, Roshni Act in common parlance, had rekindled hope among the marginalized people of the Union Territory about wrongs committed by high profile influential politicians and bureaucrats would finally be set right. However, as it would have been, the hopes were not to live up for a long, given the maneuvering capabilities and outreach of those who matter, no matter which dispensation is in command. But, anti-climax of the much hailed and appreciated judgement happening during the gubernatorial rule is shocking and unfortunate. The vested interest prevailed over the public interest.
What were the compelling reasons for the Jammu and Kashmir government to prefer review over implementation of the court judgment, especially when hype had been created by publishing names of the so-called high ups involved in the alleged scam during the process of District Development Council elections recently? All of a sudden a shocker came that the UT administration had sought review of the judgment. This raised many eyebrows and put a question mark on the intent of the government. Was it political expediency or sabotage? Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha will have to find out.
The mystery shrouding the Roshni Act has baffled the law-abiding citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, who want rule of law to prevail. This has even been the essence of the High Court judgment delivered by the then Chief Justice Gita Mittal. Inter-alia, the Court noted at the outset that the Rules framed in pursuance of the powers given by the Roshni Act did not have the sanction of the legislature. “”Government officials had the gumption and absolute arrogance to publish rules which did not have the clearance of the legislature speaks volumes about the influence of the beneficiaries,” the judgment said.
The Court had pointedly observed: “The enactment has been worked to facilitate illegal vesting of State lands in the hands of the powerful despite the mandate of the land regarding distribution of largess by the State. Certainly, the projected object of supporting hydel projects out of the sale proceeds was only in order to give the semblance and propriety to the object. It has served no such purpose.”
In pursuance of judicial intervention, the issue is under the scanner of the CBI, which has unnerved most of the beneficiaries.
Much before the High Court judgment, disclosures about the ‘land scam’ under the Act were so startling that the people had also lost faith in the system. Connivance and encroachments had become the order of the day to usurp as much as possible. More the person was influential, more he, she or they grabbed. There were political overtones as well. The then Congress government of the time had termed the legislation as revolutionary on the lines of the (in)famous land reforms ushered in by Sheikh Abdullah inspired by the Leftist school of thought. What is historical about the Act becomes clear from the fact that most respectable people in public life have ‘usurped’ the price-less land on peanuts. Like Sheikh Abdullah’s agrarian laws, the Roshni Act too benefited a particular section of people. According to the official data, a total 6,04,602 kanals (75,575 acres) of land was transferred across J&K under the Act, including 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4,173 acres) in Kashmir. The figures are self-explanatory.
The Roshni Act was one of the legislation which had brought a unique convergence between the otherwise divergent political parties of Jammu and Kashmir. Seen fighting over frivolous and petty issues each passing day, they maintained a stoic silence over the ‘ugly side’ of populist legislation, which spoke volumes about the stakes the vested interests had developed in, what they were trumpeting, the ‘historic move of the government aimed at public good’. When exposed and named, the beneficiaries took the backchannel route to sabotage the verdict that would have helped in retrieving the prime and precious state land, which actually belongs to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The self-centric politicians and bureaucrats had turned the entire erstwhile state as their fiefdom.
The people are wondering how a government that went whole-hog in cancelling mutations, exposing illegal beneficiaries (encroachers) publicly and even retrieving the encroached upon land, abruptly decide to seek review. On December 4 the administration pleaded for “modifying the judgement”. Is it anti-climax of the most sensational scam of Jammu and Kashmir, which saw top political leadership of the country evincing interest and expressing concern?