Roshni Scam: HC To ‘Look Into’ CBI Probe Plea Next Week

Srinagar, March 14 : The Jammu and Kashmir High Court will “look into” plea for a probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into Roshni scam after perusal of status reports to be filed by various government functionaries next week.

The top court, common to J&K and Ladakh, last month termed as “shocking the state of affairs” in the manner in which the land encroachers in Jammu and Kashmir have become owners of large trenches of public land by the operation of the Roshni Scheme.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of the court headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal passed several directions on February 20 to be complied with by the Secretary, Revenue Department, Commissioner Secretary, Department of Information and Broadcasting and Deputy Commissioner, Jammu.

While the case was listed on March 12, the court granted more time to these functionaries to comply with the directions and posted the matter next week.

Among others, they have been asked to effect a calculation of the value of the public land which has vested in the encroachers, the list whereof has been already furnished before the court.

They are also required to inform the court of the division of the land whether urban, rural, forest land or of any other nature.

“It is pointed out that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had reported that implementation of the Roshni Scheme has resulted in a loss over Rupees Twenty Five Thousand Crores to the public exchequer,” the court, also comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal, said, “…We look into this matter (prayer for CBI probe) after the status reports in terms of this order are placed before us.”

The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 (known as the Roshni Scheme) was enacted in 2001 by the then State Government after the assent of the Governor on 9th November, 2001. The object of the Act was “to provide vesting of ownership rights to the occupants of the State land for the purposes of generating funds to finance power projects in the State”.

The enactment was repealed on 28th November 2018 by the State Administrative Council (SAC) led by the Governor, annulling the Roshni Scheme after concluding that it had not served “its purpose” and was “no longer relevant in the present context”

The principle objective of the Act was to raise resources for investment in power sector and the Government had estimated (November 2006) resource mobilization of about Rs. 25448 crores by selling 2064972 kanals state land under unauthorized occupation. However, it was pointed out by CAG (2014 report) that only Rs. 76.24 crore (24 percent) were realized against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore raised by the end of march, 2013 in the actual transfer of 348160 kanals in the State.

“Thus, the principle objective of the Act –raising of resources for investment in power sector was not achieved though the state has lost sizeable lands,” the court had observed last month.

Of this, the major portion (3,40,091 Kanals) has been categorized as “agricultural” and hence transferred free of cost. Balance is residential use: 6949 Kanals, commercial use: 990 Kanals and Institutional use: 130 Kanals. In 547 cases covering revenue of 31.53 percent (Rs. 100.12 crore out of Rs. 317.54 crore) of the total transfers approved in the state and 0.19 per cent of land i.e. 666 kanals out of 3,48,160 kanals of land, the statutory committees had fixed the price at Rs.325.39 crore at an average rate of Rs.48.46 lakh per kanal (before allowing rebates and incentives). After allowing the discounts over the land price fixed by the statutory committees, the applicants were asked to pay only Rs.100.12 crore. Thus there was a loss of Rs.225.26 crore to the State Exchequer. Further, after transfer of 3,48,160 kanals under the Act, new encroachments are continuing unabated as area of public lands under encroachment was 20,46,972 kanals in March, 2013 as against 20,64,972 kanals in November 2006. GNS