The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to decide on December 21 the review pleas against its verdict scrapping the Roshni Act, PTI reported. The court said that it will hear on the last week of January 2021 the petition challenging the verdict of the High Court that had removed the Act.
A bench, led by Justice NV Ramana, took into consideration the assurance of the Union Territory administration that no coercive action will be taken against those who have approached the Supreme Court. It also said that the appeals pending before it should not affect the High Court in dealing with the review petitions on the scrapped Act.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court had on October 9 declared the Roshni Act “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable” and ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into the allotment of land under this legislation.
The Act was enacted in 2001 by the Farooq Abdullah-led government. It proposed to transfer ownership of state land to its occupants for a fee determined by the government. Money from these transfers was to fund power projects in Jammu and Kashmir – earning it the moniker, “Roshni Act”.
On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had adjourned a petition filed by the administration seeking a review of its decision to scrap the Roshni Act, evict encroachers on state-owned land and retrieve it within six months.
The petition, filed by Special Secretary in Revenue Department Nazir Ahmad Thakur on December 4, sought modification of the nearly two-month-old judgement. Thakur pleaded that a large number of common people in the region, including landless cultivators and nomadic communities, would “suffer unintentionally” as they would be pushed to homelessness.
For years, transactions under the law have been plagued by allegations of corruption and challenged in court. According to popular opinion, land allocations under the Act favoured political elites and powerful officials.
However, several allocations were also made to poor families who had occupied state land for years. This is especially true of the largely Muslim nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities, who have historically been poor and landless.