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Roshni Scam: DB asks Vigilance to complete probe before Dec 17

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JAMMU: Division Bench of State High Court comprising Chief Justice M.M Kumar and Justice Tashi Rabstan on Friday directed the Director of Vigilance and all the SITs to complete investigation into the much publicised Roshni Scam on or before December 17.
“It has been brought on record that direction was issued by the State Vigilance Commission to the State Vigilance Organisation to register multiple FIRs constituting four Special Investigating Teams to investigate the scam of greatest magnitude concerning land”, the Bench observed saying that the team for Jammu-Samba Districts is headed by SSP Vigilance Organization, Jammu, Udhampur District is head by SSP of that District. The Team for Srinagar and Budgam is headed by SSP Srinagar.
“Despite the constitution of SITs, nothing concrete has been brought on record to show that the investigation in the FIR is either complete or near completion”, the Division Bench stated and expressed dismay on the slow pace of investigation in a matter of such a serious magnitude which can easily be styled as the biggest land scam of the State.
While dealing with an application filed by Prof S.K Bhalla petitioner seeking CBI probe in Roshni Scam, Division Bench further observed that “We are left with the impression that investigation in respect of various FIRs is deliberately delayed so as to enable the accused to destroy evidence. The collection of documentary evidence in the present case should not have taken more than two months and the accused could have been proceeded under various criminal cases. The action with regard to transfer and re-transfer of the land to the  State should have been initiated. If the Vigilance Organization takes its task seriously, it could have completed the investigation by now and produced the challan by bringing the guilty to the books.”
Division Bench further observed in case the investigation is not complete by the date fixed, then the Director Vigilance shall remain present in person. He is further directed to make use of various coercive methods proceeded in the Criminal Procedure Code for completion of investigation including the attachment of the property, accounts, and even auction of the property belonging to the accused. Division Bench further observed that “If we find that the Director Vigilance has been acting arbitrarily by keeping the slow pace of investigation then various presumptions available in law shall be reached by initiating proceedings against the erring officials.”
This Public Interest Litigation exposes the ugly face of implementing the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 (for brevity ‘Roshini Act’) on the report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for the year ending 31st March, 2013.
The State Government before the Comptroller had taken the stand that there was no deviation in implementation of the Roshini Act and action would be taken against the erring officials if anything is found wrong.
The Comptroller on its turn has disapproved the reply of the department stating that it did not relate to audit findings. It also took notice of the fact that rules were admittedly framed by the Government but not approved by the Legislature because there was no statutory requirement to this effect. The finding reached by the Comptroller and Auditor General mentioned that the principal 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.25,448 crore by selling 20,64,972 Kanals State land under unauthorized occupation.
However, it was observed that only Rs.76.24 crore (24 per cent) reportedly realised against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore raised by the end of March 2013 in the actual transfer of 3,48,160 Kanals of land. Thus, the principal objective of the Act, viz, raising of resources for investment in power sector was not achieved though the State has lost sizeable land. Of this, the major portion (3,40,091 Kanals) has been categorized as ‘agricultural’ and hence transferred free of cost. Balance is residential use: 6,949 Kanals, commercial use: 990 Kanals and institutional use: 130 Kanals.
In 547 cases covering revenue of 31.53 per cent (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.48.86 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 20,46,436 Kanals in March 2013 as against 20,64,972 Kanals in November 2006.
“The above points were reported to the Government (July 2013); the Government in its interim reply stated (September 2013) that there was no deviation in the implementation of Roshni Act and action would be taken against erring officials if anything is found wrong. The reply of the department does not relate to audit findings. The Department confirmed that the rules framed by the government were not approved by the Legislature, there being no statutory requirement to this effect. Since the Rules made have been published in gazette, the general public and the Legislature in any case deemed informed about its provisions. This per se cannot justify the infirmities in the Rules.”
Advocate S S Ahmed appeared for the petitioner whereas Senior AAG Gagan Basotra appeared for the State. JNF

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