New Delhi, December 10: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday made an oral statement in the Supreme Court that it will not immediately take “coercive action” against petitioners, who claim to be lawful occupants and land holders, challenging the “omnibus” verdict of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to scrap the Roshni Act.
The petitioners alleged that the High Court had not given them the opportunity of a hearing, and they were being deprived of their rightful property in violation of Article 300A of the Constitution.
The government’s statement came even as a Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana asked the petitioners to first join in with others seeking a review of the High Court verdict of October 9 that struck down the Jammu and Kashmir (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act of 2001, or the ‘Roshni Act’, and its Rules of 2007.
The Bench said their current petitions in the Supreme Court would not bar them from going ahead and filing review pleas in the High Court, The Hindu reported.
A review hearing on the October 9 judgment is scheduled for December 21 in the High Court. Even the J&K administration has sought a review in favour of lawful occupants.
Thus, with an intention to give enough time for the High Court to decide the review petitions and to avoid “parallel proceedings”, the Bench fixed its next hearing in the case on the last week of January, 2021.
On October 9, the High Court ordered a CBI investigation into how the Roshni Act was used systematically and illegally, over the years, to vest large parcels of State lands with encroachers. In fact, it was shocked to find that the 2007 Rules had not even been placed in the State legislature for approval. It said the illegal land transfers were done with the connivance of powerful persons. It ordered the retrieval of the illegally transferred land.
“The High Court was looking at unauthorised encroachment of land. We have been the lawful occupants,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for one of the petitioners, protested in court on Thursday.
Senior advocate P.S. Narasimha, for another petitioner, said his client, a lawful occupant, had got land retrieval notices from revenue officials.
“We are lawful leaseholders,” senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, for a petitioner, urged.
“So far as illegal encroachers are concerned, the government will oppose. The Union Territory has made it clear that encroachers and land grabbers cannot claim to be exempted from the High Court order… But for petitioners we will do nothing without notice,” Mr. Mehta, for the J&K government, submitted.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, for a petitioner, said the original PIL in the High Court was only about land grabbers and encroachers. It did not concern authorised occupants.
Senior advocate Kailash Vasdev said the October 9 verdict had an “omnibus” effect, covering both land grabbers as well as lawful occupants.
The petitioners claim that they were valid lease holders under the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act of 1960. “The rights stood accrued in favour of the petitioners not only in terms of the Roshni Act, but arose as a consequence of the lease granted under the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act of 1960,” a petition said.
Some of these petitioners have their homes built 50 years ago on the land in question. They said the “mere possibility of abuse of law” cannot be a reason for striking down the entire Roshni Act as unconstitutional. They argued that the High Court had wrongly attributed “malice” to the State legislature. They said the placing of the 2007 Rules of the Roshni Act before the State legislature for clearance was not mandatory, but only directory.