The larger public issue of illegal occupation of village panchayat and government lands, triggered by a dispute between police officers over the value of such lands way back in 2007 has failed to make the Punjab government act.
Though the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal's two interim reports got highlighted, the previous Chander Shekhar committee interim reports of 2010 on the illegal land deals are a bigger can of worms that the state never opened.
It was on a criminal complaint by a villager of Kansal in 2007 that the Punjab and Haryana high court entrusted an inquiry into the occupation of all such lands in the Chandigarh's periphery to then ADGP (law and order) Chander Shekhar.
The high court had clearly observed in its December 2007 order, "This court noted from the material on record that value of the property in and around Chandigarh was subject matter of dispute between police officers who appeared to have acquired properties illegally which, according to the state of Punjab, was being inquired into by an ADGP-rank officer."
Shekhar had specifically zeroed in on 49 bigwigs whose land holdings in the Chandigarh's periphery needed to be thoroughly probed.
DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, ex-DGP SS Virk, retired IAS officers Shivinder Singh Brar and V K Khanna, and retired IPS officers Sridhar Reddy and Dharam Singh Mohi were among the high-ups named in Shekhar's interim reports submitted with the high court for a follow-up action.
As the action was still awaited, the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal, however, gave a clean chit to retired IPS officer Dharam Singh Mohi and retired IAS officer V K Khanna, zeroing in on the rest among the aforesaid influential people.
Smelling a nexus
Shekhar, now retired, had advocated that the entire matter be entrusted to the CBI citing reasons in his last interim report in November 2010 as:
"…to unearth the truth and for hazard-free inquiry by an independent investigating agency out of the purview of influential authorities within the state and otherwise being involvement of a nexus of land mafia with some politicians, bureaucrats, police officers etc, it would be appropriate to transfer this inquiry to the CBI to identify the real culprits at various levels so that free, fair, unbiased and independent report could be submitted to the high court."
"The revenue department was supposed to possess the knowledge of ownership/possession of 'benami' properties, but no information in this regard has been supplied by the department," he highlighted in his reports.
Refusal to probe
The high court, after Shekhar's retirement, had entrusted the unfinished task to IPS officers CSR Reddy and HS Dhillon, who subsequently expressed their helplessness in doing so.
One of the two police officers had reasoned that some officers named in the previous reports of Chander Shekhar were senior to him, thus, it would not be advisable and practicable for a junior to probe the matter.
The high-ups manipulating the occupation of shamlat lands had a sigh of relief along with the revenue department when the Supreme Court set aside the high court's stay on the sale deeds and mutations of 'shamlat' lands, on August 31, 2012, till completion of the probe by the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal.
It was the state's financial commissioner revenue who had petitioned against the annulment of the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal, with a plea for stay on the high court verdict against the registries of the 'shamlat' land as an interim relief.
This was a victory for those keen on getting registries of the 'shamlat' patches in their name as at least 25 registries of the similar lands were inked in Majri block alone in the first week of September 2012. The Dera Bassi block that covered the Shivalik foothills on the western side adjacent to Panchkula was no exception.