Retired judge to probe land violations – Dhumal

Shimla: With the High Court reluctant to spare a judge for a judicial probe into the land scam about violations of Section 118 under HP Tenancy & Land Reforms Act, the government intends to appoint a retired judge for getting to the bottom of the issue.

Talking to reporters, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that it was in the interest of transparency to have a judicial probe about violations of state land laws. “If the High Court does not spare a judge for undertaking a probe into all violations section 118, we will appoint a retired judge to enquire into it,” said Dhumal.

With opposition Congress having let its intentions be known about turning the sanctions granted under section 118 by the Dhumal government for purchase of land, be it for opening private universities or housing projects, into an election issue, the government has responded by offering a judicial probe into the whole land issue.
The HP Tenancy & Land Reforms Act debars any non-agriculturalist or non state resident from buying agricultural land in the state. Under section 118 of the Act, the government holds discretionary powers about permitting sale of agriculture land to anyone for specified usage purposes.
“Wherever and whenever violations have come to notice of the government, the properties will be confiscated and stand vested with the state under the law,” said the chief minister as he pointed out several cases where the government had acted upon digressions noticed. “These vested properties would either be put to public use, for housing offices or given to philanthropic institutions, he added.

The government’s move has rattled a section of the congressmen, with union minister Virbhadra Singh terming it as a ploy being employed to divert public attention but some congressmen like state president Kaul Singh Thakur supported it.

Differing from union minister Virbhadra Singh’s stance Kaul Singh not only demanded that the probe be a time bound exercise but also asked for widening its scope to include land sale to private universities and colonizers.

Under the scanner are 2068 section 118 sanctions for buying land handed out by Virbhadra Singh government between 2003-07 and 1927 sanctions by Dhumal government from 2008 to date.

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