SAS Nagar panchayat land deals: Defunct probe panel to be revamped

  • Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 21, 2015 17:00 IST

After the Supreme Court has turned down the Punjab government petition for annulling Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal, the state revenue department is out to put things in order for judicial investigation into the mutations of the village common lands.

On Monday, financial commissioner (revenue) (FCR) Karan Avtar Singh found that a committee notified in November 2013 on the Punjab and Haryana high court direction to look into these land deals in SAS Nagar district had not filed any report in 18 months. “The three-member committee led by IAS officer S Karuna Raju now will be re-notified,” the FCR told Hindustan Times, when asked about the much-awaited findings.

Raju was director, rural development and panchayats, when the committee was formed to initiate appropriate legal action against officials concerned, rectify the irregularities spotted by the tribunal, and retrieve the panchayat lands given away to wrong people. Special secretary (revenue) SS Khara and SAS Nagar district revenue officer (DRO) Rohit Gupta are other members.

No accountability

The committee without specific tenure was to submit its first report by December 2013. Raju, now special secretary in the chief minister’s office (CMO), was director (rural development and panchayat) from January 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. He claims he does not remember whether he filed a report or not. “I do not remember off-hand… and I am no more the director,” he said when contacted.

For principal secretary (rural development and panchayat) A Venu Prasad, the investigation committee for the SAS Nagar district could not function since it was by the names of specific officers, who had to move on. “The committee is being reconstituted at the FCR level,” Prasad confirmed, endorsing the FCR’s move.

Prasad’s predecessor, Mandeep Singh Sandhu, who remained in office for long and left only two months ago, never tried to find out why the committee became defunct.

Raju’s successor, C Siben, now will lead the revamped committee, and the FCR will nominate the two other members afresh. “This will be done at the earliest,” said FCR Karan A Singh.

HC to make next move

Monday’s meeting was in view of the high court hearing in the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal case coming up on April 24, and first after the Supreme Court disposed of the state’s petition as “un-fructuous”, observing that it had committed in the high court to implement the tribunal’s recommendations about identifying and punishing the officers responsible for illegal mutations of the panchayat lands.

Endorsing report remains shelved

The financial commissioner (revenue) also reviewed the significant findings of a separate report by SAS Nagar deputy commissioner that had endorsed the tribunal’s findings about illegal mutations in seven villages and was shelved.

The villages included Mirzapur (more than 3,000 acres), Chhoti Bari Nangal (2,200 acres), Majrian (312 acres), Mullanpur Garibdas (200 acres), and Kansal (66 acres). The report is in the FCR’s office for more than six months, awaiting any action for restoring these panchayat lands or taking action against the revenue, forest, and panchayat officials responsible.

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