Notwithstanding its own initiative to move the Supreme Court against the functioning of the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday announced a three-member panel of state officials for restoring the village common lands back to the panchayats and for action against all who illegally occupied such lands in SAS Nagar district.
A similar task being done by the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal was, however, halted in July this year after the Punjab government moved the Supreme Court against the constitution of the said tribunal. The tribunal had zeroed in on many political, administrative and police bigwigs for illegally occupying the shamlat lands.
The state committee announced on Thursday comprised rural development and panchayats director S Karuna Raju, revenue special secretary SS Khara and district revenue officer Rohit Gupta. It has been asked to submit its initial report by December 31.
"Several instances of unlawful possession of such lands in SAS Nagar district by some persons has come to the notice of the state and the committee has been constituted by the chief minister who took a serious view of the situation," the official spokesman said.
Though the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal had the ambit to uncover such cases all over the state, as referred in its terms of references by the Punjab and Haryana high court, the state government maintained that the panel would "go even beyond the ambit of findings of the tribunal".
Announcing the panel, Badal said the state government was duty-bound to restore all such encroached shamlat lands to the respective village panchayats across the state to ensure the judicious utilisation of these lands for the overall development of villages besides welfare and prosperity of its people.
The committee has been mandated to examine the cases of the villages covered by the Justice Kuldeep Singh tribunal and also the left-out villages, if any, in the district.
"The terms of reference in the first case would be to initiate appropriate action in accordance with the law to rectify the irregularities that have been identified by the tribunal so that the lands which have been wrongfully distributed among the private persons could be restored to the panchayats," the spokesman said.
In the second phase, the committee would prepare village-wise inventory of panchayat lands and to ascertain the current status of this land in terms of both government record and actual position on the spot.
The committee would also identify persons who usurped the panchayat land through various means and also suggest measures for retrieving such lands.