Plea against anti-encroachment drive in J-K withdrawn from SC

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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain a plea against a Jammu and Kashmir government circular directing all Deputy Commissioners to remove encroachments on Union Territory land, including Roshni land and Kachharie land, by 31 January, reported Bar and Bench.

A bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna was unconvinced with the petitioners’ argument that despite the Jammu & Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 (popularly known as the Roshni Act) being repealed, their ownership rights persisted.

“You tell us what right you have.. not under Roshni Act – it has been struck down! …. The Act has been repealed. Once the Act has been repealed, where is the question of savings clause?” the Court remarked.

The bench also orally observed that if the Court were to grant relief to those continuing to occupy the land, it could have larger repercussions.

“If we protect your possession, it will affect the entire J&K encroachment! At the most we can grant you reasonable time to relocate,” the Court said.

The petitioner eventually sought to withdraw the petition and was allowed to do so by the Court.

During the previous hearing, the bench had advised the petitioners to restrict their prayers to the status quo rather than a blanket stay on the circular, reads the report.

“If stay (of order) granted then it will benefit land grabbers also,” Justice Shah had remarked.

In 2001, the J-K government enacted a law called the Roshni Act for granting ownership of state land to unauthorised occupants to raise funds for power projects in the erstwhile state.

In October 2020, a Division Bench of Justices Gita Mittal and Rajesh Bindal of the High Court had declared the Act unconstitutional. All acts done under it as well as amendments under the Act were subsequently declared void ab initio.

As per the report, the Court had also ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Roshni land scam case, stated to be the biggest ever in the history of the erstwhile state.

The J-K government had then moved the High Court to review the said ruling. At the same time, appeals were also filed against the High Court judgment before the Supreme Court.

Even as several review petitions challenging the High Court judgment were pending, the Union Territory, on 9 January this year, had directed all deputy commissioners to remove encroachment on such land by 31 January 2023.

Residents were told to either demolish the structures on their own or bear the expenses for the demolition.

The Supreme Court had, earlier this week, agreed to list the urgent application seeking a stay on the circular. Justice Sanjiv Khanna had earlier recused from hearing the matter.

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