Tribune News Service
Shimla, September 2
The Radha Soami Satsang, Beas, in Himachal has sought the permission of the state government to allow it to sell excess land donated by followers.
Sources said the request was made by the sect, both to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue and Personnel) Tarun Shridhar. However, a final a decision on the plea will be taken only at the level of the Cabinet.
It is learnt that the file, which had been sent by the Revenue Department to the Law Department for legal opinion, has been sent back with adverse comments. The Law Department has clarified that since all religious and charitable institutions are allowed to hold excess land, allowing them to sell this land will be illegal.
The government, in relaxation of the Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972, had in August 2012 brought in a legislation, allowing religious and charitable institutions to own more than 150 bighas land. Many sects possess excess land which has either been purchased or donated by people at various places in Kangra and Shimla. The move was primarily aimed at wooing the big chunk of electorate before the last Assembly polls.
“While allowing these institutions to hold excess land, there was a clear provision which said they could not sell, mortgage or dispose of such land held over and above the limit,” revealed officials. As such, allowing them to sell land would be illegal. Moreover, if the Radha Soami Satsang is allowed to sell land, it will not have to seek permission under Section 118 of the Land Reform and Tenancy Act as it was given the status of agriculturists in the early nineties.
Then Revenue Minister Gulab Singh Thakur had informed the Assembly while introducing the Bill that this was being done as the repeated requests had been received from Radha Soami Satsang of Beas in Punjab to grant them permission to hold land in excess of the limit under the Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972.
The 2012 one-man Inquiry Commission of Justice DP Sood, which had been constituted to look into all benami land transactions in its report, had mentioned that no institution should be allowed to hold excess land. “The government has abolished zamindar system by enacting the HP Abolition of Big Landed Estate and Land Reforms Act 1953 and HP Ceiling on land Holding Act, 1972, but now a new type of zamindar (big landlord) are being created in the name of religious institutions,” the report read.
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