One man commission to probe Himachal benami land deals

Shimla: With the Himachal High Court having declined to spare a judge for a judicial probe into benami land deals. the state government today announced appointment of a one man commission headed by a retired judge to go into all land deals since 2003 that violate the state land laws.

The commission is to be headed by Justice DP Sood, a retired judge of the HP High Court.

The commission has been appointed under sub section (1) of section 3, of Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 and has been asked to submit its report with six months, said a government spokesman.

The issues to be probed by the commission mainly relate to benami land transaction in violation of section 118 of H .P. Tenancy and Land Reforms Act 1972 since 2003 that have resulted in transfer of agriculture land to non agriculturists.

The commission has also been asked to inquire into all violation of statutory provision regarding issuance of essentiality certificate under H.P Apartment and Property Regulation Act 2005 since the legislation came into force till 31st March, 2011.

The commission has also been empowered to give its finding on any other issue which may be relevant to these issues, said the spokesman.

To protest small and marginal farms, non-agriculturalists and non state residents under law are debarred from buying any agricultural land in the state.

Facing a hostile opposition during the Feb-March, 2011 budget session, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had assured the house of appointing a judicial commission for probing the entire land sale controversy.

With the High Court declining to spare a judge for heading the probe, the government has settled for a retired judge to head the commission.

Since announcement of the industrial package for Himachal in 2003, a lot of agricultural land has been diverted for industrial use after relaxing the stringent state land laws.

Enactment of the HP Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 2005 further eroded their sanctity. The judicial probe is expected to go into the various violations that have been permitted over the period.

With their being scarcity of agriculture lands in the hill state, the law was enacted to protect farmlands from being bought by non-agriculturalists causing a change in land usage.

Opposition congress has gone on the offensive about land being sold to non-agriculturalists and non state residents and has threatened to turn it into an election issue.

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