Ex-J&K chief secretary moves SC against scrapping of Roshni Act

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NEW DELHI: Former chief secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Mohammed Shafi Pandit on Wednesday filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging a high court verdict scrapping the Roshni Act which conferred proprietary rights to occupants of state land.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on 9 October declared the Roshni Act “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable” and ordered a CBI probe into the allotment of the land under this law.

In a statement, Pandit, a 1969 batch IAS officer and gold medallist for distinguished services, said he has full faith in the judiciary and that the Supreme Court will give them an opportunity to hear them soon.

“Therefore, I am restraining from making any detailed comments,” he said but added that he would like to clarify that he was a lawful occupant of a part of the family land belonging to his mother-in-law.

Pandit and his wife’s name figure in a list of Roshni Act beneficiaries brought out by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir.

“It is unfortunate that pursuant to a recent judgement of the high court… my name and that of my wife, Nighat Pandit, has been included in some list that is circulating, which has portrayed all of the beneficiaries in a bad light. The list is not accurate and it appears that some attempts to overreach the judicial authority,” the statement said.

He said the land was purchased in 1953 from a retired judge by his mother-in-law and the allotment was made by the then maharaja of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, in 1936, on payment of the prescribed premium and ground rent.

“The transfer was accepted by the government, and the leasehold rights were renewed up to 2016, in accordance with the law. In most of the leasehold cases, a lot of uncertainty prevailed about renewal. Roshni Act/Rules made it possible for us to obtain proprietary rights on land, on payment of the prescribed amount, which obviated the need for renewal, after the expiry of the lease,” he said.

He claimed the high court had passed the judgement without hearing them.
He said he and his wife were lawful allottees of land made available by the government for the construction of residences.

The Roshni Act was enacted in 2001 with the twin objective of generating resources for financing power projects and conferment of proprietary rights to the occupants of state land. It initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals (102750 hectares) to the occupants of which only 15.85 percent land was approved for vesting of ownership rights.

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