CBI begins probe in Roshni Scam

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One of the three cases include encroachments on prime JDA land in Deeli involving influential businessman Bansi Lal Gupta

Jammu, November 16: CBI on Monday has taken up for investigations three cases of transfer of state land under the erstwhile J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership to its Occupants) Act 2001, including the multi crore land scam involving encroachment of 154 prime Jammu Development Authority’s land within the limits of Jammu Municipal Corporation allegedly involving police, bureaucrats, politicians, businessman and media nexus.

“The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered three separate cases in pursuance to the orders of J&K High Court in PIL No. 19/2011 and taken over the investigation of these cases, earlier registered by Vigilance Organization, Jammu (now Anti-Corruption Bureau, UT of J&K) vide FIR No. 23/2015, FIR No. 5/2015 and FIR No. 6/2014,’’ an official statement here said.

The FIR No. 6/2014 was one of the three cases mentioned by High Court as “instances of complete illegalities pointed out on court record’’, while declaring the Roshni Act void “ab initio’’ and cancelling all the land transfers under it. It had also ordered CBI to take over investigations into the matter from ACB.

The FIR  was registered by Anti-Corruption Bureau against an influential businessman and owner of a local English daily newspaper, Bansi Lal, in connection with the transfer of 5 kanal and 2 marla JDA land at Deeli under provisions of the Roshni Act, despite the fact that the land could not have been transferred in view of its being held by a government department or organization controlled by the government.

The land so transferred to Bansi Lal Gupta was part of the 154 kanals of State Land bearing Survey No. 781 which was transferred to JDA in August 2004. Bansi Lal, however, had in 2006 applied for vesting of ownership rights of 5 kanal and 2 marla land in his favour under provisions of Roshni Act.

After having unearthed the involvement of several high level officers and its failure to get sanction for prosecution of some of them from the then government, ACB in July 2019 filed its final report in the court of Special Judge (Anti-Corruption) Jammu, seeking closure of the case saying the revenue department was adopting an attitude of “shut eye’’ in respect to the JDA land under Khasrra No. 781 in view of the involvement of “police-bureaucratic-political-business-media nexus’’.

In this context, the ACB had stated that “a piece of land where two police pickets had been constructed has now been converted into Jammu Plaza and JK Resorts (illegal banquet halls), while as residential houses of bigwigs have been found contructed (such as Raman Bhalla, Subash Choudhary (benami), ex-MLA Om Parkash, retired SP Choudhary, retired DySP Mirza, Mohan Meakin, Anchor Firm and so on’’. Seeking closure of the case, the ACB had in its closure report had “virtually exhibiting its helpless to proceed against the “Big Sharks’’ and despite unearthing the crime, preferred to adopt a silence as the accused involved were highly influential and enjoying clout in the corridors of power’’.

While Raman Bhalla is UT Congress vice president and former revenue minister, Subash Choudhary is the owner of a local news channel and cable TV network.

The Special Judge (Anti-Corruption), however, rejected the closure report

ACB again filed the same closure report before the Anti Corruption Judge in December 2019 which too was rejected by the latter with observations that from the acts of omissions and commissions of officers in vesting ownership rights of a piece of JDA land to Bansi Lal, it is clear that “all of them acted in unison for bestowing the land in question to the beneficiary as largesse’’. “These state of affairs clearly demonstrate that abuse of official positions by these officers/officials for favouring the beneficiay is writ at large,’’ the  court had pointed out, adding “it is baffling to notice that such being the factual position how a clean chit was given to the then Divisional Commissioner Sudhanshu Pandey and Assistant Commissioner Rajinder Singh by the erstwhile Vigilance Organisation (now ACB)’’.

“It is equally disturbing that sanction for prosecution of two more, Hardesh Kumar Singh, the then Deputy Commissioner, and Anwar Sadotra, the then Patwari, was denied in an open bid to save them that too by the authority which was not competent to do so on flimsy grounds as it all these officers/officials were kids having no understanding of what was natural fallout of their actions,’’ the court had observed.

The other two cases are registered against unknown revenue officers/officials in Jammu and Samba districts for deliberately ignoring provisions of Roshni Act and intentionally conferring undue benefits upon illegal occupants of state land thus causing losses to state exchequer.

About the other two cases taken up for investigations by the CBI from ACB, the one pertains to FIR No. 23/2015 registered against officers/officials of revenue department in Jammu district for conferring undue benefits upon the illegal occupants of the state land by intentionally ignoring the laid down provisions of Roshni Act and Rules thus causing hurge monetary loss to the state exchequer and defeating the very purpose of the scheme to generate revenue for undertaking developmental works.

Another case has been registered against unknown officers/officials of revenue department in Samba district by ACB under FIR No. 5/2015 for having conferred undue pecuniary  benefits upon illegal occupants of State land by intentionally contravening the legal provisions of Roshni Act. In many cases, ownership rights over the state land were allegedly conferred in favour of individuals, who did not have their recorded possession in respective revenue records.

Apart from this, it was also alleged that the rates were not fixed by the Price Fixation committee, as per the provisions of the Act and in many cases were not remitted to the Government Treasury, thereby causing huge loss to the State exchequer.