Whither scheme for eviction of encroachments
Encroachments of all sorts were slated to be removed after formulation of appropriate schemes by Jammu and Kashmir Government in accordance with and to ensure compliance of the directives of the Supreme Court. Although nearly six years back a scheme for eviction of all sorts of encroachments was formulated, yet it has remained unimplemented in the State which has given place to avoidable worrisome situation in length and breadth of the State.
In its landmark judgment, Supreme Court of India on Jan 28, 2011, while disposing of a civil appeal titled Jagpal Singh Versus State of Punjab and others, had directed all the State Governments in the country to prepare schemes for eviction of illegal and unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha , Panchayat, Shamlat land etc and the same to be restored to Gram Sabhas , Panchayats etc for use of the villagers in the villages. The Apex Court had directed the Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/Union Territories in India with directions to do the needful and taking the help of other senior officers of the Government in this regard. The said scheme was to provide for the speedy eviction of such illegal occupants after giving them a briefing and a show cause notice.
In consonance with the directives of the Apex Court and keeping in view the powers conferred by J&K Land Revenue Act as also J&K Common Lands (Regulation) Act besides other relevant provisions of the law in force in the State, the State Revenue Department formulated a scheme for evictions of encroachments . The scheme was titled as “J&K Eviction of Unauthorized occupants (from common and other land) Scheme. This scheme was duly approved by the Cabinet in Oct 2011 and notified too, soon thereafter for strict implementation by all the concerned authorities. The scheme provides for direct accountability of all the Deputy Commissioners in respect of the implementation of its provisions. Concerned agencies were to be roped in to identify the encroachments. Likewise all the BDOs were to be held accountable for any casual approach adopted for identifying such encroached lands belonging to Panchayats and had to report to the Deputy Commissioner concerned for eviction processes. Implementing the scheme had, subsequently to result in handing over the encroached land by Deputy Commissioners to the concerned authority after making entries in revenue records. Moreover, the Deputy Commissioners were to fix targets to each Tehsildar regarding eviction of illegal occupants and take steps to prevent such encroaching incidents.
The Apex Court had, vide its order under reference, made it amply clear that any huge expenditures incurred in making constructions on such encroached lands or any political connections whatsoever, were not to be treated as cases of justification of condoning this illegal act or for regularizing the illegal possession . The Court had made one exception to it in cases of those where lease was granted under some Government notification to landless labourers or to members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes or if there was a school, dispensary or other public utility on the land.
The scheme was so much exhaustive and well defined that there should have been no difficulties practically encountered or excuses or any type of alibi in implementation. A three months time limit was reasonably sufficient, given under the aforesaid J and K Land Revenue Act and Common Lands (Regulation) Act and hence encroachments on common and other categories of land alike, needed to be removed and any delay in eviction process was fraught with springing of more complications and giving place to cumbersome problems in addition to amounting to flagrant violation of the SC directives and the Cabinet decision.
Whatever the reasons , the scheme for eviction of all sorts of encroachments has not seen the light of the day and implemented, not even in the least, which has led to a worrisome situation throughout the State , in appearance and in its effects, which has been viewed seriously by Governor N N Vohra. Not complying with the court orders by the concerned authorities is tantamount to adopting contemptuous attitude towards the apex court as also towards the orders passed by the State cabinet which has remained confined to mere formality as no level of implementation has been reached by the enforcing authorities resulting in the status quo ante position. Can successive Revenue Ministers, bureaucrats be held accountable for such a glaring lapse on their part to set an example of how orders of the SC and the decisions of the cabinet were to be scrupulously implemented? We shall be duly monitoring the developments.