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HindustanTimes Sat,26 Jul 2014

Fate of land tribunal: Punjab buys time in SC now

Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, November 29, 2013
First Published: 22:49 IST(29/11/2013) | Last Updated: 22:50 IST(29/11/2013)

The SAD-BJP government now is busy on two fronts - defending the questionable shamlat land deals in the Punjab and Haryana high court, and challenging the high court's tribunal formed to probe such land deals in the Supreme Court.

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The message is clear - lack of political will to re-open all such cases where the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal has zeroed in on specific pastures of village common lands illegally occupied by the bigwigs ranging from police officers and bureaucrats to politicians.

The Punjab government is happy to buy time in the absence of any next date of hearing announced by the Supreme Court after November 18 when the apex court asked the state to issue public notices in the papers for the notices to be deemed as served so that the case be pursued further.

The state had mentioned in the apex court that the respondents concerned to its petition challenging the tribunal were not receiving the notices.

It is for the state's financial commissioner revenue (FCR), NS Kang, to immediately issue the public notices so that the matter on the tribunal's fate is pursued in the apex court.

"It may take a month or so, as it is yet to be decided whether the FCR would issue the public notice or our lawyers in the Supreme Court," a senior lawyer in the Punjab Advocate general office said.

As the senior state officials are tight-lipped on the issue, inside sources said the file was lying with the FCR for drafting the notices.

The more the delay the further would be the next date of hearing in the Supreme Court on the tribunal's fate.

Eyes on high court

It is now to be seen how well the high court takes the state's argument that the matter on the tribunal's fate was pending in the apex court.

"What is stopping the high court from renewing the tribunal?" wondered senior advocate ML Sarin, who was even appointed as amicus curiae in the parent case 'Mohinder Singh and others Vs State of Punjab' whose proceedings last year led the high court to announce the tribunal in May 2012.

In Sarin's opinion, the special leave petition (SLP) does not hold any weight, as he pointed out to the news reports of the high court already pulling up the state government for its "double standards" over the recent formation of a committee to probe shamlat land deals in Mohali in the face of the SLP in the Supreme Court.

Another senior advocate RS Bains said the SLP was likely to be set aside. Bains, who at one time, moved the high court for his clients challenging the mutations of the Nayagaon shamlat lands, said the high court was expected to take a call on extending the tenure of the tribunal.

Political will

The state seemingly lacks the political will to save village lands. While revenue minister Bikramjit Majithia is tight-lipped over the issue, rural development and panchayats minister Surjit Singh Rakhra sounded worried. "We will review the entire situation after the Delhi elections," Rakhra told HT, acknowledging that the panchayat lands were under constant threat of illegal occupation.

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