Confiscation of Hizb commander’s land illegal, say legal experts

Moazum Mohammad
Srinagar: Legal experts have questioned confiscation of nine kanals of land belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen’s Deputy Chief, Ghulam Nabi Khan alias Aamir Khan by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and termed it illegal.
On June 27, the state government initiated action of sealing the property on the orders of NIA. It sealed Khan’s nine kanals of paddy land in Sallar village of Pahalgam. The land is registered in the name of Khan’s wife Fatima Bano, as the right of the property was transferred to her in 1971. Khan has been based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir for more than 15 years.
“We weren’t given any notice to evict the land beforehand or granted time to prove our claims. A Tehsildar along with his team had called local Sarpanch and another village headman and handed them an NIA’s piece of paper. The duo called us and passed on that notice to us. This is how they sealed the land,” a family member told Kashmir Reader. He said the family is contemplating to challenge the order in court.
Legal experts say that according to Section 27 (1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967, immovable assets can’t be forfeited unless a person is given a notice in writing informing about the grounds on which it is to be forfeited. And that an opportunity of a representation within a reasonable time is granted to that person.
“Given the family claims that the property doesn’t belong to Ghulam Nabi Khan, it’s illegal then to seal it. The NIA has no jurisdiction to seal it. They can attach property that is in the name of Khan,” Kashmir High Court Bar Association (KHCBA) president Mian Abdul Qayoom told Kashmir Reader.
Former KHCBA president Zaffar A Shah said the NIA has jurisdiction over sealing any property across India if there is evidence that it was created or acquired out of hawala money. In case of Khan, however, the situation appears different, Shah said.
“In these cases, government attaches the property to pressurize the family. NIA has to present proper evidence that the land has been acquired out of hawala funds. In absence of any evidence confiscation is illegal,” Shah told Kashmir Reader.
“The family should challenge the order before a court. The government can pass any illegal order but opportunity of hearing has to be given to the family prior to sealing the property,” said advocate Mir Shafqat Hussain.
Before sealing of the Hizb chief’s land, police seized two properties, one belonging to chairman Peoples League, Ghulam Mohammad Khan Sopori in Srinagar’s Chanapora in 2012, and the other of Abdul Razaq Lone of Sopore. Earlier, in the ‘90s, advocate Mian Qayoom’s house was also sealed by police under 88 and 89 CrPC. However, the court later withdrew the order after it was found that it belonged to his wife. The government invoked Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on Ghulam Mohammad Dar of Safa Kadal Srinagar and seized his house in 2001. He, however, was acquitted by a court of the charges in 2010.
According to the NIA, the Hizb chief is accused of pumping money to fund militant outfits in India through the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Fund Trust. A case was lodged by NIA in 2011 against Hizbul Mujahideen’s supreme commander Syed Salahuddin and his deputy Amir Khan along with 10 other persons. The NIA had charge sheeted the accused under Section 120B read with 121-A IPC and Sections 17, 18, 18-A, 18-B, 38, 39 and 40 of Unlawful Activities (P) Act, 1967.
Stating that the “NIA got direction from court”, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Shailendra Kumar said the investigating agency “sealed the property on their own”.
“The aggrieved family has certain legal rights and they can challenge the order before the law if the land belongs to his wife and that too acquired in 1971,” Kumar told Kashmir Reader. He said at the time of sealing the land, the family members should have informed officials.
“The family should have told the official that the person is based there (PaK) and ‘I am living here. Why you are harassing me?’ Every citizen is equal before the eyes of law and the lady should be advised to approach the court,” Kumar said.