The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, popularly known as the Roshni Act was repealed last week, by the State Administrative Council headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik last week.
It was done as it had “failed to realise the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions”.
Here is everything that you need to know about the Act:
The Act was enacted by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s government, and it set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land.
The original Act
The Roshni Act envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.
It was enacted by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s government, and it set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land.
The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.
In 2005, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-Congress government relaxed the cutoff year to 2004.
During the tenure of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who replaced Sayeed as Chief Minister under a three-year rotation agreement, the cutoff was relaxed further to 2007.
It is intriguing to see why subsequent CMs kept relaxing the deadline.
The government also gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs 100 per kanal as documentation fee.
Allegations and probe
Investigations into the land transfers subsequently found that land in Gulmarg had been given over to ineligible beneficiaries.
In 2009, the State Vigilance Organisation registered an FIR against several government officials for alleged criminal conspiracy to illegally possess and vest ownership of state land to occupants who did not satisfy criteria under the Roshni Act.
In 2014, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated that against the targeted Rs 25,000 crore, only Rs 76 crore had been realised from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013, thus defeating the purpose of the legislation.
The report blamed irregularities including arbitrary reduction in prices fixed by a standing committee, and said this was done to benefit politicians and affluent people.
The Vigilance Organisation completed investigations in five cases by March 2015, and indicted nearly two dozen officials, including three former deputy commissioners for allegedly misusing the provisions of the scheme. It sought sanction to prosecute the accused, which is yet to be granted.
In November 2018, the High Court restrained all beneficiaries of the Roshni scheme from selling or carrying out any other transaction in respect of the land transferred to them.
The decision to repeal the Roshni Act came after demands from IkkJutt Jammu, a group set up recently by one Ankur Sharma, an advocate.
Sharma had in 2014 approached the High Court seeking court-monitored investigations into the transfer of land under the Act. On November 20, Sharma asked the Governor to withdraw the Act in order to “defeat the jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu”.
Sharma had accused former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of “spearheading an Islamo-fascist agenda for demographic change in Jammu’s Hindu-dominated areas”.
What the repeal means
The SAC has ordered cancellation of all pending applications seeking vesting of ownership rights of state lands to their occupants. However, cases where such rights have already been transferred will hold.