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Roshni Act: J&K HC postpones hearing on review petition to December 16

December 11, 2020

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday deferred the hearing of a review petition filed by the UT government against its judgment on the Roshni Act to December 16.

The court had on October 9 declared the J&K State Land (Vesting of Occupants Ownership) Act 2001, also known as Roshni Act, “void ab initio” and ordered a CBI investigation into all instances of alleged irregularities in the transfer of state lands to private individuals.

As the matter came up before the court, a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Sanjay Dhar ordered the court’s registry to list all the review petitions and applications filed upto December 15 on the next date of hearing so that all the matters are heard together on December 16.

Sheikh Shakeel, counsel for Prof S K Bhalla, who had originally challenged alleged encroachments, said that the CBI also filed its status report in the sealed cover before the court. The Bench opened the cover in the court, perused it and returned it to CBI counsel after sealing the cover.

Ankur Sharma advocate, who had challenged the constitutional validity of the Roshni Act and sought handing over all the cases of irregularities in land transfers to CBI, said that “desperate, insincere attempts of the government in getting the matter decided today bore no fruits’’.

On December 8, the J&K High Court Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal heard a fresh miscellaneous application filed by J&K government seeking preponement of the date of hearing of the review petition which is scheduled for December 16.

As soon as the application was put up for hearing, the Division Bench asked AAG Aseem Sawhney the reason for the hurried approach.

“What is the urgency in the matter?” the bench asked Sawhney on Tuesday.

To it, he submitted that the CBI has started the probe “and it has restricted its probe to those FIRs which were being probed by ACB earlier”.

“It is creating problems for the officers of the J&K Government and if CBI probe in those cases is allowed to continue it will amount to unsettling the settled things,” AAG Sawhney submitted.

He added that the J&K Administration be allowed to formulate a policy for segregating the poor and the farmers from the purview of the judgment dated October 9 passed by the Division Bench in PIL No.19/2011 and other connected matters.

Advocate Sheikh Shakeel Ahmed submitted that ever since the passing of the Judgment by the Division Bench, a “false narrative contrary to facts and records was run by vested interests to defeat the very intent and purpose of the court directions.”

“…after the passing of the judgment, a false narrative contrary to facts was run to target a particular community and that community was falsely accused of grabbing ponds, rivers, state land and forest land in J&K even when there were no such observations or directions in the judgment passed by the Division Bench,” Advocate Ahmed said.

He submitted that the Judgment of the Division Bench was “misinterpreted to foster the false narrative to mislead the common masses and to create a wedge between the peace-loving people of J&K”.

Advocate Ahmed argued that Divisional Administration of Jammu was “selectively leaking the names of Roshni beneficiaries in the media to target a particular community and to give a wrong impression under the garb of the directions of the Division Bench.”

He further added that recently a news portal of Jammu leaked the list of beneficiaries belonging to Village Ghaink, Tehsil Bhalwal District in Jammu in which “an important name of a political figure (the former Deputy Chief Minister) allegedly surfaced and thereafter the Divisional Administration of Jammu resorted to criminal silence and conveniently hushed up the matter without clarifying the particulars of that alleged political person.”

The Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal, who retired the same day, while expressing its deep concern and displeasure in the open court orally observed: “We don’t want discrimination of any kind on the basis of Culture, Region, Religion/Status…we don’t want lopsided investigation and the investigation has to be fair”.

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