SC declines to stay J&K Govt’s circular on land encroachments

Asks administration not to demolish any house
SC declines to stay J&K Govt’s circular on land encroachments
Representational Pic

New Delhi, Jan 20: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the Jammu and Kashmir government’s circular whereby all deputy commissioners have been directed to remove encroachments on state land including Roshni Land and Kachharie land by January 31, 2023.

A bench of Justices M R Shah and Justice C T Ravikumar expressed its disinclination in not passing an order today.

However, the bench made an oral observation, asking the government not to demolish any houses.

“We are not passing any order today. You instruct them orally not to demolish any houses. But we will not grant a general stay… others should not get benefit,” the bench orally told the counsel of J&K.

As the case came up for hearing, the counsel for the petitioner took the court through the reliefs prayed for.

In response to the counsel for the petitioner that many tribals were residing on the land, Justice Shah remarked: “If stay is granted then it will also benefit the land grabbers.”

The counsel appearing for J&K clarified that the circular is mainly focused on the Roshni land.

He also questioned the locus of the applicants.

“The application was served on me yesterday. It does not even mention that the applicants live there,” he pointed out while adding that the land only had shops and such establishments.

The court then adjourned the matter.

The matter was mentioned before the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud earlier this week.

The J&K government on January 9 had directed all Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to remove encroachment on such land by January 31, 2023.

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

In 2001, the J&K Government had enacted a law – J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 (popularly known as the Roshni Act) for granting ownership of state land to unauthorised occupants in order 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 declared the act unconstitutional.

All acts done under it or amendments thereunder were also declared unconstitutional and void ab initio.

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 J&K.

The J&K government then moved the High Court to review this judgment to a limited extent.

It was submitted that while the judgment restored the rule of law by halting the implementation of the unconstitutional Roshni Act, there was also a concern that a large number of common people would suffer unintentionally by reason of the verdict.

At the same time, appeals against the judgment were preferred before the Supreme Court.

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