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Justice Kuldip Singh Special Tribunal Report Part-I
How high &mighty grabbed public land in Punjab villages near Chandigarh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 9
The issue of usurping of the shamlat and panchayat land is back on Punjab’s political stage. It rocked the Assembly during the recently concluded session. The Tribune did a series of stories highlighting how the powerful and influential people have illegally occupied the shamlat and panchayat land in the state.

Earlier, the Division Bench of the Punjab & Haryana High Court comprising the then Acting Chief Justice Justice MM Kumar and Justice Alok Singh had ordered the constitution of a Special Tribunal on May 29 last year to look into the alleged cases of land grabbing in Punjab’s villages adjacent to Chandigarh.

Tribunal’s members were a former Supreme Court judge, Justice Kuldip Singh and an advocate PN Aggarwal, who were assisted by a former District & Sessions Judge BR Gupta.

The Tribunal took the assistance of various departments, including Revenue, Rural Development and Panchayats and Forest, and other government agencies concerned to scrutinise the old records and prepare a village-wise report of grabbing of public land.

Of the 336 Punjab villages in Chandigarh’s periphery, the Tribunal concentrated on the encroachers of public/ government land on the outskirts of the city.

Incidentally, soon after the Special Tribunal was constituted by the High Court, the Punjab Government had challenged its formation through a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, where it is pending decision. Meanwhile, the special tribunal submitted two interim reports to the HC, basing its findings on the revenue records and the laws governing such lands. However, the Tribunal's report does not contain the version of the vendees (the person to whom the land was sold). Following the submission of these reports, Justice Kuldip Singh had expressed his inability to continue the work citing health reasons.

In its first report, the Tribunal stated, “We are of the considered view that a land grab scam is operating in the Punjab villages, especially in the periphery of Chandigarh. Thousands of acres of land has either been grabbed or is in the process of being grabbed”.

“The director, additional directors of consolidation in collusion with the revenue officers and the right-holders have passed orders which are patently illegal and smack of fraud, collusion and conspiracy,” said the Tribunal. "The work of protecting the panchayat, government and public land cannot be left to government authorities," the Tribunal commented.

Since the issue has been coming to the fore repeatedly and is sought to be politicised by various entities, The Tribune is serialising verbatim the operative portions of the Special Tribunal report to let people judge what has been happening in Punjab, especially in the vicinity of its capital. As part of the series, The Tribune reproduces a section of the first interim report by the Special Tribunal headed by Justice Kuldip Singh:

Land transactions in Karoran village in Chandigarh’s periphery ‘without jurisdiction, illegal’

The Special Tribunal brought out how in Karoran (Naya Gaon) village of Punjab certain influential persons had taken illegal possession of huge chunks of public land. Karoran is among the eight Punjab villages where the Tribunal had gone into land records following allegations of public lands having been grabbed by powerful people.

The Special Tribunal stated ......."SC Aggarwal, Chief Secretary to Government of Punjab, filed a reply by way of an affidavit on March 12, 2012. Annexure R-IV to this affidavit gives “information with regard to the land (Shamlat/ Rural Development Department) in and around the periphery of Chandigarh under illegal possession in respect of the two blocks, namely Kharar and Majri, Tehsil Kharar, District SAS Nagar.

“Annexure R-IV shows that the total Shamlat land which is in illegal possession of different persons is 2275 acres in village Karoran alone. List of 4,097 persons, without specifying the area which they are occupying, has also been attached along with the said affidavit. With a view to get further information in this respect, we called Harvinder Singh, Patwari halqa Karoran on January 3, 2013.

He brought the original record along with him. We examined the record with the help of the Patwari and the Special Revenue officials deputed with the Tribunal.

"The record shows that vide Mutation No.1086 sanctioned on June 12, 1955, the earlier entry in the revenue record showing this land as Shamlat Deh Hasab Rasad Jar Khewat was changed and mutated in favour of Gram Panchayat. Later on vide Mutation No. 1355 sanctioned on May 13, 1966, the entry in ownership column was changed and mutated in favour of Shamlat deh. Again by Mutation No.1747 sanctioned on August 10, 1977, the entry was reversed and mutated in favour Gram Panchayat deh.

"On June 2, 1993, by Mutation No.5013, the entry ‘Gram Panchayat deh’ was further changed in favour of Shamlat Deh Hasab Rasad Rakba Khewat. Finally by Mutation No.76286 sanctioned on June 28, 1995, the ownership of the land was changed from Shamlat Deh Hasab Rassd Rakba khewat to Shamlat Deh Hasab Rasd Jar Khewat. On the same date i. e. june 28, 1995, Mutation No.6287 was sanctioned, according to which the land measuring 22965 Kanal 9 Marla was mutated in favour of Shamsher Singh and others, the landowners of the village jointly.

"The total shares in the said land were indicated to be 1,91,676 and the said total shares were further mentioned in the names of the share-holders by mentioning individual’s share. Mutation No.6287 was sanctioned in view of the earlier order of the Tehsildar, Kharar dated jnanuar 16,1995 wherein he had ordered the determination of the shares of the landowners according to the jamabandi of 1952-53.

"By the said Mutation No.6287, the ownership in the land has been changed from Shamlat Deh Hasab Rasad Jar Khewatto the ownership of the landowners by name. An uncertified copy (in Punjabi) of the Tehsildar Kharar’s order dated November,29,1994 & januar 16, 1995 have been placed on the record. It is obvious from the order dated november 29, 1994 that Surjit Singh Dhillon, PCS, A.C-1st Grade passed orders on the basis of the mutual consent of the parties including the Gram Panchayat.

"Looked from any angle, the land in dispute, has throughout been the Shamlat Deh Hasab Rasad Jar Khewat and as such vested in the Gram Panchayatand its ownership could not be changed in favour of the landowners by the Assistant Collector and the Mutation No.6287 based on the said order is obviously illegal, without jurisdiction and liable to be ignored. The AC-2nd Grade had no jurisdiction to deal withShamlat deh land.

"The only authority to deal with Shamlat deh is the Collector under Section 7 or Section 11 of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961. The legal position as stated is settled by various authorities of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the Supreme Court of India. The total Shamlat area involved is 22965 Kanal 9 Marlas. This area converted into acres come to almost 2870 acres.

"As the original record is stated to have been taken by the CBI, there is nothing on the record to show that any authority at any point of time distributed the total land by metes and bounds among the share holders in accordance with their shares. Mutation No.6287 dated june 28, 1995 only mentions the shares of individual share holders in the joint ownership.

"The share-holders after January16, 1995 started selling their shares into the land to different persons. According to the Halqa Patwari, there are about 30,000-35,000 registered sale deeds as a result of the sale of the shares made by the so called share holders. This is being multiplied even now. Since the shares of the so called share holders were never demarcated on the ground, no revenue official gave to the share holders the nishan dehi or physical possession of the area. The Patwari further states that on their own the purchasers of shares from the share- holders took possession of certain areas without any authority of law.

"The share-holders have sold their shares to different persons indiscriminately. The largest numbers of shares were purchased by Col. B. S. Sandhu, his family and his societies/ corporations. (see table for details)

"Col BS Sandhu is occupying the totality of the above land. No partition of the land was held by any authority. Col. Sandhu took possession of the huge chunk of land without any authority of law. “We are prima facie of the view that the order dated January 16, 1995 and the subsequent Mutation No.6287 June 28, 1995 are without jurisdiction and illegal.”

"In view of the above, the landowners recorded in the above Mutation No.6287 and the purchasers from them or the subsequent vendees are illegal. Apart from Col. B. S. Sandhu, there are large numbers of other occupants who are having farm houses etc., illegally. The list of some of such persons who are occupying large tract of area has been placed on the record with this Tribunal.

“It would be useful to mention that Mutation No.6287 sanctioned on June 28,1995 is under challenge at the instance of the Gram Panchayat, Karoran, Tehsil Kharar, District Mohali and is pending before the Commissioner, Ropar Division, Ropar. It would be pertinent to mention that Mutation No 6287 was sanctioned on June 28, 1995 and since then the proceedings in respect of the said Mutation is pending before the Revenue Authorities but no finality has as yet been achieved. Meanwhile havoc is being caused on the spot where the land is changing hands through various General Power of Attorneys and sale deeds. It is happening because there is no stay granted by any authority in respect of further transactions."

(To be continued) 





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