What is Roshni Act?
Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 is commonly known as the Roshni Act. This act was promulgated in 2001 by the government of the National Conference under the Chief Ministership of Farooq Abdullah.
Why this Act got the name “Roshni Act”?
Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 is also known as the “Roshni Act” because Government has planned to build a hydroelectric power plant from the money (25,000 crores) which they have expected to earn through this land transfers.
Roshni Act came into force on 13th November 2001. This act came as a beneficiary to the poor and landless people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
According to this act whoever is residing on the state government’s land since 1990 will be given that land in his/her name and this transfer of property will be done just with a very nominal price i.e. price for the documentation work only. In 2001, the government expected to transfer the ownership of 20.46 lakh kanals (1.02 lakh hectares) of state land, in which 16.02 lakh kanals were in the Jammu region and 4.44 lakh in Kashmir. The government also set a speculative target of 25,000 crores as their earnings.
The cut-off year mentioned in this act was 1990. This cut-off date was continuously getting changed according to the government convenience as in 2005, the PDP-Congress govt. led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed amended the act to relax the cut-off year to 2004. But in 2007, it got again amended by Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government and now the cut-off year became 2007.
As these cut-off years were getting changed and the lands are being transferred continuously but the problem was, in these transfers, there were around 1000-1500 persons who are either Political leaders or bureaucrats or influential persons. But this Act came to provide beneficiaries to the poor and needy. So this act was being misused and there was a lot of corruption being done through this Act.
The Harsh reality of this Act:
Till 2019, out of 20.46 lakh kanals which has to be transferred but only there was an approval for 6.04 lakh kanals, in which
· 5.71 lakh kanals in Jammu, and
· Only 33,392 kanals in Kashmir.
However, only 3.48 lakh kanals land was actually transferred.
The earnings which the government expected and which they actually got were very devastating. The government only got 76.46 crore rupees.
In Kashmir, most of the land under the Roshni Act has been leased out to business houses and for residential purposes, in some cases for almost 100 years!
It was looking as the Loot to their Policies.
Comptroller and Auditor General of India termed the scheme a 25,000 crore Scam.
Why people also call it “Land Jihad”?
In 2020 IkkJutt Jammu, a right-wing organisation said that in Jammu the majority population is of HINDUS but the majority land which was transferred to the parties were Muslims and so there were allegations that the government is making Jammu a Muslim state. This was the reason why they termed the Roshni Act as “Land Jihad”.
High Court View:
The matter of this Act first came into the eyes of the High Court in 2011 when Professor SK Bhalla an academician and the then principal of the Government degree college, Mendhar.
Later this matter was raised by Ankur Sharma, the then-law student asking for a CBI intervention into the scam. And also he filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the Roshni Act.
On 9th December 2020, a bench held by the then Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal of Jammu & Kashmir High Court pronounced their judgement and said:
-A violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution is illegal under the Roshni Act.
- The Rules of 2007 were released without the approval of the legislature and did not comply with the Roshni Act. Hence, ab-initio is illegal and invalid.
- The actions and omissions of officials and intruders/occupants were significant criminal crimes involving arrest, investigation, and prosecution.
- In compliance with the statute, vast tracts of State lands illegally vested with encroachers under the Roshni Act, 2001 must be recovered.
- Out of the actual transfer of approximately 3,48,200 kanals of land under the Roshni Act, most of the more than 3,40,100 kanals were transferred free of charge as agricultural land through the illegal work of government officials.
- Consequently, the present case is a suitable case for the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is expected to deal with all aspects of the matter.
Some prominent names who have been accused of misusing the Act:
o Former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.
o Former J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu.
o Former Home Minister Sajjad Kitchloo.
o INC leader Majid Wani.
o JK Bank Chairman MY Khan.
o IAS Officer Baseer Ahmad Khan, etc.
All these people are either political leaders, bureaucrats or influential persons.
Ø In 2018, the act was repealed by the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir Satyapal Malik, who ordered the case investigation to be taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Ø The state government has said that it will recover land distributed under the scheme in six months. All the identities of those who took advantage of the scheme will be made public.
Ø Jammu & Kashmir government scrapped this full Act and said that it was “NULL & VOID” and Void ab Initio.
Ø Beneficiaries went to Supreme Court against the state High Court decision and then the upper court ordered to review the decision.
The other Arguments:
o There has been corruption and fraud in 1000-5000 cases but it hasn’t happened in all 30,000 cases. There are landless and poor people who got ownership under this Act.
Majority of the people under the act are genuine beneficiaries.
o The communalised rhetoric around land rights has heightened insecurities among Muslims in Jammu. This is especially true of the largely Muslim nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities, who have historically been poor and landless.
Overall if we see it is a good decision to scrap the Roshni Act but it should not be left like this, there is a need for some alternatives to this Act so that the genuine ones get justice to them.