In the much publicised case of Rs 25,000-crore Roshni land scam, a division bench of the J&K high court comprising chief justice Gita Mittal and justice Rajesh Bindal, handed over the probe to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday.
Jammu-based activist and advocate Ankur Sharma had filed a PIL seeking CBI probe into the multi-crore land scam highlighting encroachment of 20 lakh kanal state land by a powerful land mafia in league with politicians, revenue officials and the police.
The division bench observed that investigation be entrusted to SP CBI. It directed the chief secretary, two divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners to provide all details to the CBI. The court further directed the CBI to file status report every eight weeks.
On September 23, the division bench had reserved its order for a CBI probe.
During the course of the hearing, advocate Sharma said that given the structural problems and political interference crippling the anti corruption bureau, both of which are reflected in its conduct of the last six years of investigation, its time to bring in an independent agency like CBI for investigation.
He also brought to the notice of the court CAG of 2014 towards encroachment of 20 lakh kanal state land at an estimated loss of Rs 25,000 crore to the state exchequer by criminal and wrongful implementation of the Roshni Act.
He emphasised that given its nature and quantum, Roshni scam is unprecedented in the history of J&K. He further submitted that only the HC should monitor the CBI investigation and bring the culprits to book as nothing has been achieved since 2013.
“Accordingly, the court ordered a CBI probe. It also held all Roshni allotments as void ab initio, and declared the Roshni Act as unconstitutional,” Sharma told HT.
The HC has also made the chief secretary accountable for uninterrupted investigations. “Investigation have also been ordered against officers in whose time period the encroachments happened. DCs and divisional commissioners will be held guilty of contempt in case they do not cooperate in the probe,” he added.
Earlier, the anti-corruption bureau of Jammu (vigilance) was investigating the matter and had registered 17 FIRs so far. “Given the manner in which the bureau was handling the case, the court deemed it appropriate to divest it off the investigation and hand it over to the CBI,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, popularly known as the Roshni Act, was implemented in 2001 by the then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad. It was aimed at “conferring 20.55 lakh kanal of state land to the occupants”.
The Act sought to generate resources for hydroelectric power projects and to confer proprietary rights to occupants of state-owned land subject to payment of land cost fixed by the government.
However, the Act was later found to be an attempt to change the demography of the entire region and the then J&K governor Satya Pal Malik scrapped it in November 2018. The Act was repealed as “it failed to realise the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions”.