The Jammu and Kashmir government has filed a review petition against the annulment of the Roshni Act by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The petition, filed on December 4, says a large number of people would suffer unintentionally including landless cultivators, people residing in small dwellings. “They are unfortunately clubbed along with rich and wealthy land grabbers who have obtained title over state land through the provision of now struck down act,” the review petition says.
Calling on the Court to distinguish between the two classes of people, the review petition, likely to come up for hearing Monday, also urges the Court to allow the government to formulate an appropriate mechanism to enable people like landless cultivators and single dwelling owners to continue to remain in possession of their land, subject to appropriate ceiling and on payment at appropriate rates.
The review petition also says that there are apprehensions that the High Court verdict may lead to an unintended roving inquiry by the CBI, which may go on endlessly without generating the results sought by the high court.
The review petition says the court’s intent was to identify the wealthy and influential individuals who manipulated the system to obtain benefits under the Roshni Act and encroached upon the public lands.
The High Court through a judgment on October 9, 2020, made all the transfers of land under the law as illegal, declared the controversial Roshni Act "unconstitutional" and directed that investigation into the land allotment scheme under it be transferred to the CBI for investigation.
Soon after the High Court judgment, the BJP started describing the Roshni Act as land jihad. Former Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Kavinder Gupta gives credit to the BJP for annulment of the act and says the party has launched surgical strike against land jihad. Ironically, now it is stated that he too has been a beneficiary under the Roshni Act.
On December 5, Union Minister Smriti Irani told a gathering in Udhampur that fraud had been committed by Kashmiri leaders under the Roshni scam. “The leaders of the Gupkar gang gave an assurance to people that the state land would be sold to get Rs 25000 crores for power projects of J&K and the poor will be benefited,” she said.
While Irani came for just a one-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir to campaign for the eight-phase district development council (DDC) polls, Union Minister of state for Finance Anurag Thakur, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain and others have been camping here for the past few weeks.
Thakur repeatedly says the National Conference, Congress, PDP and other members of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration are party to the “Roshni land scam,” describing it as one of the biggest land scams in the history of India.
In 2000 the National Conference government had conceived the Roshni Act to generate Rs 25,000 crore for development of power projects in the state sector of Jammu and Kashmir to address growing the power crisis. In May 2005, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government brought amendments in the law, extending the cut off date from to 2004. It also came up with several clauses allowing people who had raised residential houses and commercial buildings to pay 10 to 15 percent of the actual price to get the legal rights to the state land. For agricultural land, the illegal occupant was asked to pay Rs 100 per kanal.
According to the lawyers associated with the case, under the scheme, the transfer of ownership rights was approved for 33,345.35 kanals (1kanal= 0.8 acre) in the valley as against 3,14,810.18 kanals in Jammu. The approving committee fixed the total price of these lands at Rs 317.55 crore but only Rs 76.46 crore was deposited. In Kashmir, the beneficiaries paid Rs 54.05 crore while in Jammu, the beneficiaries paid Rs 22.40 crore.
The government had estimated that 20 lakh odd kanals were to be sold to fetch Rs 25000 crore. But in actual fact, only 3.48 lakh kanals were sold for Rs 76 crore.