Enforce or scrap Section 118 of Himachal Land Reforms Act – Benami Commission

Shimla: Blatant violations of Section 118 of HP Tenancy & Land Reforms Act, 1972 recorded in the Benami Land Transactions Inquiry report, the one man Justice DP Sood commission has recommended to either abolish or rigorously enforce the contentious section that prohibits land sale of small and marginal farmers.

After perusal of 1897 cases, the commission report which was laid in the Vidhan Sabha on Thursday has recorded benami transactions of Tibetans buying up land in contravention of the laws, gross misuse of the HP Apartment and Property Regulation Act, sales made on General Power of Attorney (GPA) to evade stamp duty, land allotted to landless families in 1976 being sold to industrialist, sale made on faulty agriculturalist certificates and sales made in violation of forest conservation and environment acts.

Observing that the 80 % benami sales scrutinized, the land belonged to families who had average holdings of 5 bighas, the commission has asked banning of land transfers on GPA and immediate withdrawal of the HP Apartment Act.

Taking a position that Tibetans are not citizens of India, the commission took a divergent view about a government notification of 8.5.2006 under which land acquired by Tibetan refugees in violation of the laws was notified as grant on lease, the report holds it as illegal possession.

While in the case State vs Lobsang Yamphel (a Tibetan) and others the commission recommended the properties acquired to be vested in the state, it has also recorded 81 other cases mostly in Dharamsala and Indora in Kangra district and Riwalsar in Mandi district where Tibetans are involved in benami transactions.

Coming down harshly on the 173 builders registered under HP Apartment and Property Regulation Act, who mostly belong to Punjab, Haryana, Delhi or are NRI’s, the commission in clear terms has recommended immediate withdrawal of the contentious act to put a stop to further conversion of scare agricultural land into non-agricultural use.

Recommending vesting of land and property of 42 builders, the commission has pointed out the case of Sugandha Apartments who had to provide essential services like water, sewerage and electricity connections in a colony constructed in Solan but left the apartment owners in a lurch saying that these were state responsibilities.

A father son builder team  registered under Amar Nath Aggarwal who had purchased 160 bighas of land in 2005 was again given permission to buy another 145 bighas in July, 2007 in violation of HP Land Ceiling Act.

On site inspection, the inquiry commission was ‘shocked to see a thick forest on the purchased land’. A count by forest department and vigilance bureau put the number at 2527 trees.

The report has brought on record a list of 71 landless people, mostly in Nalagarh and Baddi area who under government schemes were allotted public lands in 1976 but have been rendered landless again after the authorities granted permission to sell that land to industrialists in contravention of Section 118.

The report concludes that spirit of the law that seeks to protect the small and marginal farmer has not been kept in mind while granting permission under Section 118 of HP Tenancy Laws, a law which forms part of the Constitutions 9th Schedule and has been kept outside the purview of judiciary.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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  1. says: shankar thakur

    Its sad that already scarce agricultura land is bieng put to non agricultural use . Why have these acts not been respected and enforced ?? So called landless people and neta nexus is a big probelem every where in H.P . Its strange that once allowed to sell their alloted land “landless” people again start behaving they are dying of hunger without the land to cultivate ?? In my area alone so many Tibetians who are not even the Citizen Of India have become the Landlords.

    Forest land protection is another sham ! Look at Shimla and other places Forests areas are diminishing while the UN PLANNED concete jungles are on the rise. Its really sad that the such a strong land acts that were put in place by our founding fathers are being mocked at by the govt and burocrats allowing their missuse and loss of our land and evironment.

  2. says: Devinder K Sharma

    This report reveals that restrictions under Rule 118 are observed more in blatant violation rather than effective regulation and the approvals under Rule 118 are granted on a case by case basis and there is a very high element of discretion. Everybody understands that discretion is the villain of the piece and these approvals fall in the category of the famous quote of Mr. N Vithal, one time Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India, whereunder he preferred to call such approvals under the telecom policy of the 1990’s as ” suitcase by suitcase approach” rather than ” case by case approach” in his avatar as the then Telecom Secretary. Discretion breeds corruption and once the approvals are governed by the rule book, these would bring in a high level of transparency. Land acquisition by Tibetans is another scandal which needs to be rooted out by calling off all the previous approvals. Encroachments on the forest lands in general, and in many cases on the forest lands of the “Demarcated Protected Forests” in Shimla hills, in particular, deserve attention of the highest order but the question in this case is “Who will bell the cat? “

    1. says: Govinder Singh

      A British National Tejinder Singh features at pages 64-65 of Justice DP Sood’s report placed before the Vidhan Sabha, conclusively showing that this British National owns nine agricultural properties in Shimla and Solan Districts HP. The report of his illegal holdings which show he has violated the FEMA act have not been acted upon and the Government is shielding this individual, although the DC Shimla and DC Solan have compiled the legal description of his properties in 2011 and have sent the reports to the Home Ministry and the Revenue Department.

      This British National was closely allied with a minister from the previous BJP Government and they were jointly selling their agricultural land to the Baba Ramdev organisations, but he appears to have sufficient clout and money to retain his agricultural properties even in this regime, although the holdings are clearly illegal.

  3. says: TENZIN

    Tibetan who are born in india are citizen of india by birth as according to the constitution of india n no body can argue on that.. As a responsible citizen of india, carrying duty n responsibility together which nobody can stop buying land by tibetan..

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