Dissatisfied with the pace and manner of Punjab government's action on prominent people having grabbed government land in the periphery of Chandigarh, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday voiced the need for a court-monitored probe by a commission or tribunal headed by a retired judge.
Asking senior advocate Arun Jain to act as amicus curiae ('friend of the court') and sum up the issue by Monday, the HC division bench comprising acting chief justice MM Kumar and justice Alok Singh stopped just short of actually constituting such a probe panel.
The action came after state chief secretary Rakesh Singh finally submitted an affidavit carrying a 60-strong list of the who's who of Punjab who own land in the UT's neighbouring Punjab district of SAS Nagar.
However, the affidavit, submitted after repeated assertions of the court and based on findings of a committee constituted on the HC's directions, asserted that only seven had actually grabbed government land or village common land (shamlat). The 53 who have virtually got the clean chit from the committee include chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini.
The committee that prepared the list comprised of the financial commissioners of the revenue and rural development departments, director of the local government department, principal chief conservator of forests, and the deputy commissioner of SAS Nagar.
Seemingly not happy with the affidavit, the HC bench told the state counsel, "Those who are at the helm of affairs, including [the] chief minister, are indulging in such activities […] then how can justice be done [?]… They'll not proceed against themselves." The court opined that the case should be monitored by the high court "like the 2G spectrum case was being monitored by the apex court", and asked for the entire record to be handed to advocate Jain, who would assist the court.
On the submission by the state counsel that only seven persons were in possession of government land, the bench averred, "We are not commenting whether it is legal or illegal. The petition has been pending in the high court since 2007 and for the last five years nothing has been done by the state… If the commission/tribunal will be constituted it would decide the case within a year."
The case stems from a petition by Nayagoan resident Kuldip Singh, who alleged that high-ups including IAS, IPS officers had grabbed land in UT Chandigarh's periphery in the areas falling under the jurisdiction of Punjab. Later, he withdrew the petition but the high court took suo motu notice and proceeded with the matter.