HC concerned over conversion of agri land with ‘impunity’

Srinagar: Voicing concern over conversion of agriculture land in the state with ‘impunity’, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed authorities to ensure timely and stern action against violators.
“It is a matter of concern that the Revenue authorities having powers under various enactments to stop violation of conversion of the land are not taking timely action, as a result the violators with impunity have been changing the kind of land,” a division bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Hasnain Massodi said while hearing a Public Interest Litigation, effectively aimed at protecting the agriculture land from being used for any other purposes.
“All the Deputy Commissioners (Collectors) of the districts are impressed upon to ensure that all the Revenue authorities at their respective levels shall ensure stern action against the violators so as to stop the change of the agriculture land,” the bench said.
Any violation noticed anywhere shall be stopped and action taken report shall be submitted, it added.
“In case no action is noticed to have been taken by the concerned Revenue officers of the area, they shall be personally responsible and answerable,” the bench said.
The orders by the bench are in addition to the slew of directions already passed by it from time to time for implementing the Land Revenue Act, Agrarian Reforms Act, J&K Alienation of the Land Act and other applicable Acts.
The Acts, the bench said, empower the Revenue authorities to stop the conversion of the land and to take action, “which they are not doing.”
“We reiterate all the directions issued from time to time by the court to be implemented in letter and spirit.”
On last date of hearing, the court has directed all the Deputy Commissioners of the state to file response regarding their respective districts about the conversion of agriculture land for other uses such as constriction of houses etc.
In case of failure, the court had directed them to appear in person before it to explain their position.
Thereafter, some of the Deputy Commissioners filed their responses but court observed that the reports “are not satisfactory.”
“We have seen certain reports, wherein it is mentioned that there are number of violators; notices have been issued against some, what happened thereafter is not reported,” the bench observed, directing all the Deputy Commissioners to file fresh status reports.
“(In the reports), it shall be clearly indicated in a tabulated form as to how many violators have been noticed, what action has been taken, if notices have been issued, whether any final decision has been taken,” the court said and posted the PIL—Human Watch (Regd) International Vs State & others—on May 19 next.
Advocate General MI Qadri along with Deputy AG N H Shah appeared on behalf of the state while J I Ganai, amicus curies, assisted the court.