Srinagar: The J&K Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation (JKHPMC) put up a strong claim of bonafide ownership of the land on Srinagar outskirts that the Governor’s administration handed over to the CRPF, “in violation of court orders and the spirit of the J&K Kahcharai Act”, Kashmir Reader has learnt.
The 7.5 acre land at Zakura, belonging to the cash-starved JKHPMC, was recently transferred to the CRPF on “lease/transfer basis for a period of forty years extendable upto 99 years for establishment of a battalion camping site of CRPF”, in return of Rs 79,66,40,000.
Although the CRPF has been occupying the said land for the past three decades, the J&K High Court in December last year had directed the government to “take every step for removing the encroachment, if any, as regards the land in question so as to retrieve the same for common purpose”.
The judgment came in response to a petition filed by inhabitants of Zakura.
In compliance of the court orders, the JKHPMC, one of the respondents to the judgment, had written to the CRPF to vacate the land, even enclosing a copy of the High Court judgment with the official communication, a corporation insider told Kashmir Reader.
However, with the Governor-led State Administrative Council (SAC) giving sanction to the transfer of the land to the CRPF on March 6 this year, the JKHPMC, the insider lamented, “went to the backburner”.
“We are the bonafide owners of the land. If CRPF vacates the land tomorrow, we will sell it at a premium, but the question is who will evict them? We will be more than happy to see their backs. The call has been taken by the government. There is MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) in the frame. The district administration and the JKHPMC are nowhere,” said the JKHPMC insider.
Along with the High Court order directing the government to remove the encroachments from the land, a previous judgment by the court had asked the JKHPMC to sell off the land and liquidate the liabilities of around Rs 45 crore of the corporation employees.
The decision in this regard was taken at the 55th board of directors meeting of the JKHPMC, the source said.
“The court order of December regarding removal of encroachment is in a different context. The two judgments can’t run in conflict,” he emphasised.
He also alleged that there was a “malafide intention by some interests to usurp this land”.
“There should be no hue and cry over the forces occupying the land as they have been there for the last three decades. Who had the guts to evict them?” he, however, asked.
Commenting on the transfer of the kahcharai land by the Governor’s administration to the CRPF, former Advocate General of J&K, Ishaq Qadri, said that the land transfer was “in violation of the spirit of the (J&K Kahcharai) Act”.
“It is not mandated. Instead of retrieving the land, they are giving it away,” Qadri said.
A similar bid by the state government to construct a housing colony in a north Kashmir village several years back was challenged in the High Court, Qadri said. “In this case, where the court has already banned the encroachment, the government is still transferring it to the forces in order to please them while sidelining the laws,” he said.
The Supreme Court and the related Kahcharai Act in the state bars constructions on kahcharai land, Qadri informed.
“Obviously, this is a violation of the law. The day isn’t far away when we will be having no kahcharai land. Is that the policy of the government?” asked the former Advocate General.
Secretary Revenue Department, Shahid Anayatullah, told this reporter, “Kahcharai land can be used for public purpose. There is a Supreme Court order. There is an opinion of the Law Department.”
He further said, “I must tell you how the previous government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed gave land to the CRPF at one lakh rupees a kanal. We have done it at a crore and thirty lakh a kanal, and that, too, on lease premium, not transfer (altogether).”
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Choudhry told Kashmir Reader that the transferred land was owned by the JKHPMC and the decision “to lease or not, belongs to the corporation”.
He said that the recent sanction to the transfer was given after the state government approved it in March this year.
Choudhry said that the CRPF had released the requisite lease money to the JKHPMC.
Asked if High Court orders had been violated in the land transfer, he asked back, “Where did you feel it otherwise?”
Mushtaq Ahmad Makhdoomi, the advocate who had represented the Zakura inhabitants who petitioned the High Court to remove the CRPF encroachments from kahcharai land, said that the court’s orders have been violated by giving the land to CRPF.
“They have, perhaps, not gone through the particular judgment. The land transfer can be challenged in the court,” Makhdoomi said.
The petitioners also alleged that the government had violated the court orders by transferring the kahcharai land to the CRPF. Farooq Ahmad, one of the petitioners, said that the governor’s office had promised them to construct a sports facility on the said land.