In a bid to end illegal ownership of government land by private parties, including politicians, bureaucrats, police and revenue officials across Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday ordered setting up of a three-member tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge Kuldeep Singh.
A division bench comprising acting chief justice MM Kumar and justice Alok Singh asked the tribunal to submit its report within four months period. In case the probe panel required more time to probe the land grab cases, it would have to revert to the high court for extension of the deadline.
The tribunal would inquire whether the land acquired by various persons was at any point of time public/shamlat/forest/nazul and as to how the ownership of land was changed or mutated in the names of private parties.
It was made clear that the tribunal's function would be with regard to the investigation of the possession of land and legal issues would be debated before the high court.
The bench also directed the Punjab government to ensure compliance of the court's directions and to provide office space for the tribunal along with secretarial staff within two weeks.
Advocate PN Aggarwal, expert in revenue matters, has already given his consent to be a member of the tribunal. However, during the arguments on Tuesday, the bench on the suggestion of counsels for various parties for considering the name of retired Haryana district judge Baru Nath Gupta, who is well-conversant with Punjabi language, directed to seek Gupta's consent. In case of Gupta's reluctance, the high court directed the counsels to suggest other names.
Showing little conviction in Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal's arguments that vehemently opposed the constitution of the tribunal, the bench said, "If such cases are to be decided by statutory authority working under influential persons, it would not be decided in common man's interest. Therefore, there is ample justification for appointment of a tribunal by this bench."
The bench also reiterated that despite passage of long time after submission of inquiry report by now retired Punjab additional director general of police Chander Shekhar, no steps had been taken by the state to adopt it and to take any action.
It further stated that as per the affidavit submitted by the Punjab chief secretary, about 60 influential persons have been given clean chit by the state government, including chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, director general of police Sumedh Singh Saini, other ministers, IAS and IPS officers with which it was not satisfied.
"We were compelled to proceed with the idea of setting up a tribunal and requested senior advocates ML Sareen and Arun Jain to finalise the terms of reference," the bench stated.