The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Monday published online the list of alleged beneficiaries, including bureaucrats and top politicians, under the Roshni Act, reported The Hindu. Former Peoples Democratic Party leader Haseeb Drabu, Congress’ KK Amla, National Conference leader Syed Akhoon, and former Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chairman MY Khan are among those on the list comprising nearly 400 names.
In 2001, Farooq Abdullah’s government enacted the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants Act. The law was to grant the ownership of state land to its occupants, for a fee determined by the government. Its stated aim was to generate funds for power projects, earning it the moniker, the Roshni Act.
It was repealed in 2018 after Governor Satya Pal Malik concluded that it had “not served” its purpose and was “no longer relevant in the present context”. This move was made after advocate Ankur Sharma, who had defended the accused in the Kathua rape case of January 2018, sought its repeal to “defeat the jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu”.
On October 12, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation-led inquiry into alleged irregularities in the land scheme, and directed the agency to file a status report every eight weeks. In its judgement, the High Court mentioned names of former revenue minister and senior Congress leader Raman Bhalla. The High Court had also instructed that the names be put in the public domain.
The CBI has also registered a case, involving a scam of Rs 25,000 crore under the Roshni Act, against the then Jammu District Collector and others for alleged illegal grant of land parcel ownership, according to The Hindu. The Vigilance Organisation in Jammu and Kashmir initiated the case in 2014.
Meanwhile, PDP leader Haseeb Drabu, one of the people who was featured in the list of beneficiaries, said his grandfather had in 1956 purchased 0.5 acres of land from a High Court judge. “He paid the stamp duty and other fees to the government. We have all the documents,” he told The Indian Express. “When my grandfather passed away, it went to my father. In 2006 or 2007-’08 – I don’t remember exactly – the government offered a scheme to convert leasehold into freehold at a fixed premium.” He also said that his father had done a settlement in 2012-’13, adding that he did not hold a government position when the Roshni scheme was implemented.
Former minister Abdul Majid Wani refuted allegations against him, adding that he had lawfully bought land in Nowabad in 1994.