Srinagar: Can the state government retrieve its prized 96 kanals (8 acres) of land at Kashmir House on Rajaji Marg, New Delhi, under occupation of Indian army since 1946? The answer is obvious even as the government told the assembly on Friday that it was ‘vigorously pursuing’ the matter with the Indian defence ministry to get it back.
The previous National Conference-led government had said it had been ‘persistently pursuing the matter’ with the ministry.
The state has 114 kanals and 11.2 marlas of prime land at Rajaji Marg, out of which only 17 kanals are under its possession.
“The land measuring 96 kanals known as Kashmir House, Rajaji Marg, is under the occupation of defence ministry from 1 June 1946. The state government is vigorously pursuing the matter to restore the state property from the defence ministry by raising the issue before northern zonal council/concerned ministry from time to time,” said chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is also minister in-charge Hospitality & Protocol.
She was replying to NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar’s query on what the government has done to reclaim state land in Delhi, Amritsar, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Haryana from unauthorised occupation.
In 2014, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said that the government was making ‘persistent’ efforts to retrieve the land.
The successive governments have been seeking vacation of Rajaji Marg premises from the Indian Defence Ministry since 1977.
In 2008, the ministry conveyed that it has acute shortage of accommodation of 3 lakh square feet and was making efforts for alternate accommodation to facilitate vacation of the Kashmir House.
In 2014, then Indian defence minister Arun Jaitley had made it clear that no time-frame can be given for the return of the multi-crore property to the J&K government.
“No timeframe has been fixed,” Jaitley had said in a written reply to a question raised by Mehbooba Mufti as member parliament in the Lok Sabha.
The minister had admitted that the property was not on lease with it anymore. The property was leased for five years by J&K government in 1946. The lease deed expired in 1951 but the state government hitherto failed to reclaim the property.
Regarding illegal occupation of land measuring nearly 1251 kanals and 4 marlas at Sirsa in Haryana, Mehbooba Mufti said that the matter was sub judice.
The land had been initially leased out to M/s Bajwa Brothers for five years from 1957 to 1962.
“They managed to transfer its ownership in favour of Mirpur Cooperative Society by an order dated 02-04-1986 passed by the Assistant Controller 1st Class, Sirsa,” Mehbooba said.
She said a revision petition filed by the state was dismissed by the Commissioner Hissar on 13 January 2012.
The state government subsequently filed a writ petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court, pleading it should be handed over the possession of the land.
“As per the latest information of Resident Representative, the matter was argued by M L Saggar on the issue of applicability of article 131 of the Indian constitution. The high court has issued notice on 16 January 2015 and the next date of the hearing is on 18 July 2016,” she added.
In Amritsar, the state government has 32 kanals and 9 marlas of land at Daim Gunj Tapai area which is under unauthorized occupation of original lease holders.
“Three eviction suits were filed for the retrieval of the land out of which two suits for land measuring 29 kanals 14 marlas have been decreed in favour of J&K government,” she said.
Of the 29 kanals 14 marla land, execution of decree is pending since 23 May 2013 regarding 20 kanals and a marla.
Regarding 9 kanals and 13 marlas decreed in favour of the state on 28 January 2012, Mehbooba said, the proceedings are pending before additional district and session judge Amritsar for “grant of police protection as Balbir Sharma (to whom land was leased) refused to hand over the possession.”
With regard to 2 kanals and 15 marlas, the chief minister said that a case is pending before court and next date of hearing is on May 31.
In Chandigarh, the J&K government owns a commercial building over 1 kanal and 6.8 marlas in Sector 17A, comprising four floors and a basement, which is currently on lease to Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
“The ministry has now purchased a piece of land for construction of the bureau office at Chandigarh and as soon as the construction is completed, the premises shall be vacated by (it).”
Nothing has been stated in the reply by Mehbooba Mufti regarding property in Mumbai. However in 2014, the then government had stated the state possesses 1436 square feet of land, housing a guest house. “The building is not in use at present due to ongoing renovation work,” the government had said.