Taking land ‘forcibly’ | HC imposes Rs 10 lakh penalty on Govt

 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar, July 1: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has imposed a Rs 10 lakh penalty on the government for “forcibly” taking over the land of a “private person” in 2017 for the construction of a long Steel Girder Bridge at Zalpora Sultanpora Sumbal in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Javed Iqbal Wani while imposing a Rs 10 lakh penalty on the government also directed it to assess and determine the compensation of the land payable to the “private person” at the stamp duty rate as prevalent and Rs 1 lakh per year for five years as rent.

Pulling up the government, the court underscored that the “right to property is a basic human right which is akin to a fundamental right as guaranteed by Article 300 A of the Constitution of India and that no one can be deprived of his property other than by following procedure prescribed in the law”.

The contention of the “private person”, Shabir Ahmad Yatoo before the court was that his 9.053 marlas of land at Moza Sultanpora Sumbal, Bandipora was taken over by the R&B Department in 2017 for the construction of the long Steel Girder Bridge without acquiring the land following any statutory provision or his consent.

He contended that no compensation had been ever paid to him since then.

In their reply to Yatoo’s plea, the officials accepted that the land was taken over for the construction of the Steel Girder Bridge and that grant of compensation was under consideration as per the stamp duty rate.

Noting that the “facts and circumstances reveal that the private land of the petitioner has been taken over forcibly by the respondents without the consent of the petitioner and without taking recourse to any procedure prescribed in the law, the court said: “It is also an admitted fact that the petitioner has not been paid any compensation in respect of the land through the determination and assessment of the compensation is underway as per the stamp duty rate.”

The court said that it was well recognized that the Right to Property was a basic human right which was akin to a fundamental right as guaranteed by Article 300 A of the Constitution of India and that no one could be deprived of his property other than by following the procedure prescribed in the law.

“The facts reveal that the officials have violated the basic human right of the ‘private person’ and deprived him of his property without following any procedure of law,” it said.

While the court directed the officials to pay within 3 months a token rental compensation for the use and occupation of the land from the year 2017 at Rs 1 lakh per year, it said: “In addition to the above, on account of violation of the right to property of the petitioner which is guaranteed by the constitution, the respondents are directed to pay a special penalty of Rs 10 (lakh) to the petitioner within three months.”

In the event, the court said, that if the amount was not paid within the stipulated time, it would be open for the private person to move an application and bring it to the notice of the court.

“The court will swing into action and take appropriate coercive measures against the (officials) for the realisation of the amount as arrears of land revenue,” locals said.

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