As the J&K administration continues to make the names of the beneficiaries of the now-nullified Roshni Act public, a petition has been filed before the Supreme Court by the beneficiaries claiming they “were not even heard by the J&K High Court as it passed the directions.”
“We were not given an opportunity of being heard. Our rights acquired under the Act enacted by a competent legislature were extinguished by the peremptory order. It’s unprecedented. Apart from our civil rights, it raises questions of distribution of power between the executive, judiciary and the legislature, which has implications all over the country,” former J&K Public Service Chairman Mohammad Shafi Pandit, whose name was also made public, told The Hindu.
A number of Roshni Act beneficiaries, including Mr. Pandit, have filed a Special Leave Petition before the SC as “authorised occupants and leaseholders of Nazool land.”
“The credibility of all the governments will be lost if the practice of retrospective annulment of laws, without saving the action taken, is allowed to prevail,” said Mr. Pandit.
Roshni Act was passed by J&K legislature in 2001 to confer ownership rights on occupants of State land to raise ₹25,000 crore for hydel projects, but only ₹76 crore was collected. In 2018, the then Lieutenant Governor Satyapal Malik repealed the Act. Later, the High Court also scrapped the Act and directed the authorities to retrieve the land from the occupants.
“Grant of freehold rights is nothing outlandish… Even during the last one month, new schemes for online conversion of leasehold rights into freehold rights, at prescribed rates, have been announced by the NCR of Delhi, as well as Maharashtra, U.P. and M.P.,” Mr. Pandit said.
According to the petition, persons in lawful possession of State land, having established their home with their families for many years, have been dispossessed and deprived of property vested in them by law without notice and without a hearing as a consequence of the impugned judgment.
Former Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, who is also among the beneficiaries, said in an article for a local newspaper that the property was handed down to him on the basis of ancestral lineage. “In 1956, much before I was born, my grandfather purchased a house on four kanals of land in Gogji Bagh, Srinagar for his daughter, who, it so happens, is my mother.
“Under the Roshni Act passed by the State legislature and the scheme formulated by the government, it became an obligation for my mother to apply for conversion. Otherwise, under section 13 of the Act, she could have been evicted. So, whether one liked it or not, an application under the Roshni Act became inevitable. Surely, applying under and following legal obligation cannot be a corrupt practice?” he said.
The J&K administration has named many politicians, businessmen and officials as “illegal land encroachers” in J&K.
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