Dehradun: Harish Rawat has been chief minister of Uttarakhand for one year now but he is not aware of the laws that are in force in this small mountain state. Surprisingly, the bureaucracy which is known to call the shots, even did not think it proper to familiarize the chief minister with the laws regarding benami holdings and and having disproportionate asswets.
Following the sting operation in which a the personal secretary of the chief minister was showing talking to someone involved in the liqour trade and demanding Rs 20 crores to tweak the liquor policy, the chief minister came out with a statement that laws will be made to curb the mebance of black money and benami land holdings.
He obviously said that as he felt that those who were purported to be behind the sting operation were people who had minted money and become millionaires over night. “The people behind the sting operation did not have anything when the state came into being in Nov 2000 but they are today millionaires and we will make a law for benami holdings and to curb corruption”, he told newspersons.
However, he got a rude jolt when former chief minister of the state, Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri saikd that a law was already enforce in Uttarakhand to curb corruption and take action against benami land holdings. The law had come into force in Oct 2011 and is in force since then, as such there where is the need for enforcing a law to this regard, he asked.
When Harish Rawat was told that according to Khanduri a laws regarding curbing corruption and doing away with benami holdings was already in place, he expressed surprise adding that the state bureaucracy had not told him about it. In fact it was timely reminder by Khanduri that he was more concerned about corruption and benami holdings which was why he had got the law enacted during his tenure as the chief minister.
Not to be taken back, however chief minister Rawat shot back that he had no problems if such a law had been enacted during the tenure of Khanduri, but he would look into it in detail and see whether any changes or amendments were required in it to make it more stringent and practical, specially in reagrsc to the prevailing conditions in the state.
To this Khanduri retorted that if the chief minister of the state is not aware of the laws that are in force in the state which he heads, than what use will solved by enacting a new law to affect, meaning that the law enforcing machinery should be going about doing its job under the directions of the chief minister when a law is already in place.
He further went on record to say that on Oct 12 2011, the then government headed by him had made a law to confiscate not only benami land holdings but also disproportionate assets and it has only to be enforced against the offenders as the BJP government had also made provisions for special courts for speedy trials.
Rawat, while expressing complete ignorance about the said law further said that he would look into it and make all efforts to see that it becomes operational and if required necessary amendments and changes would be made taking todays conditions into consideration, as the main purpose is to ensure that corruption is weeded out of the state.
A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand).
Jagdish had worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards
Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.