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Special Investigation Part-II
Vigilance looking into multi-crore land scam
Who gave go-ahead under probe
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 27
Housing colonies were carved out and palatial bungalows built in the past decade on lands that were originally meant for the common use of Karoran village and its adjoining areas in Mohali district. But why the government did not act all these years is baffling.

In the past one week, sleuths of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau have been discreetly working on details of the case, confirmed top sources in the government. Records are being collected through what are known in police parlance as “secret sources” and these are being checked to see who permitted the division of 2,870 acres of common village land and handing over to private parties. The scam relating to the land, valued at nearly Rs 2,500 crore, was reported in The Tribune yesterday.

Under the Punjab Village Common Lands Regulation Act, 1961, it is clear that the duty of protecting shamlat land lies with the panchayat. In this case the land measures more than 1,000 acres. Hence, all decisions with regard to allowing any use of it had to be vetted by the government. From June, 1995 — the date of the controversial mutation — till date no one in the government has ever questioned the status of the land or its use. Sources in the government said the transfer of land was wrong as this could not be done without an amendment to the law. Hence, there was no question of anybody having permitted it.

The Act further lists 26 types of activities that are possible on common land. This includes sale for specified purposes for building a school or the office of a panchayat. However, it does not permit anybody to parcel it among private persons.

The only exceptions in the allotment of common village land to private individuals are when the land has been partitioned and cultivated before January 26, 1950, or it has been allotted to displaced persons. This has to be recorded in the jamabandi of the Revenue Department. In the unprecedented land scam, this was neither partitioned before the cut-off date in 1950 and nor was it allotted to a displaced person.

Also, in case the common land of a village exceeds the actual land holding of the villagers, the partition of common land, if it is allowed in eligible cases, cannot exceed the actual land holdings of the villagers. In the case of Karoran the common land of 2,870 acres exceeds the land holdings of villagers who benefited.

The intra-department correspondence of the Revenue Department reveals that the government had some knowledge about common land being transferred. However, action was mysteriously not initiated. Prior to June, 1995, the then Financial Commissioner, Revenue, had sent a note asking why the said land should not be vested in the panchayat.

It turns out that those who could not have been possibly the legal owners of the land, sold it off to people for housing colonies and the entire thing now is under the process of being regularised. As of today, the government, the panchayat and the bona fide purchasers have been cheated while the landless have been divested of their rights to the common land.

According to official sources, the case would have gone unnoticed had the CBI not found the registry for a 10 acre piece of land in the bank locker of one of the IAS officers it had raided in connection with the Forest Hill golf resort case in April this year. The document was for the transfer of land that had taken place between a property dealer and the officer. That really set the ball rolling.




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