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Govt wants panel annulled, yet cites its report in assembly

Prabhjit Singh , PTI  Chandigarh, November 02, 2013
First Published: 00:46 IST(2/11/2013) | Last Updated: 00:56 IST(2/11/2013)

The Punjab government's double standards were exposed in the assembly on Friday when revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia used the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal report to take on the opposition Congress, contradicting the government's plea in the Supreme Court for annulling the same tribunal.

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Majithia's move, quoting excerpts of the tribunal report citing 'shady' land deals related to Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, even invited a demand from the opposition to implement the tribunal's recommendations.

The panel's recommendations, which are mandatory as of now for the state government to implement, include serving notice to all individuals or parties in possession of panchayat lands to dispossesses them from the same, and punish all officials of the revenue/consolidation departments found involved in such illegal land mutations,

"We have observed during the investigations that the institution of patwaris/kanungos is highly corrupt," the tribunal had observed, recommending replacement of the system of patwaris/kanungos with 'revenue officers' by amending the Land Revenue Act.

It had also recommended amendments in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961, to plug 'loopholes' in the definitions of certain terms in the said law.

Entrusting overall supervision of shamlat land to the district collector (deputy commissioner) for safeguarding the transfer of income from such lands to the panchayats was another key recommendation.

Neither Majithia nor any other minister responded to the demand.

The tribunal's tenure was over in mid-July 2013 in the absence of any extension granted by the high court. The HC took notice of the state advocate general's plea that a special leave petition (SLP) was pending in the Supreme Court in which the state made a request against the high court's order for forming such a tribunal/commission.

The matter is pending in the Supreme Court amid no action taken by the state government on any of the recommendations of the tribunal. The state had last year submitted an affidavit that it would implement the tribunal's recommendations.

Illegal occupation

The special tribunal to probe illegal occupation of panchayat lands was constituted in May 2012.
It worked for 10 months, revealing names of several politicians and bureaucrats, including police officers, for illegally occupying shamlat/village panchayat land

It had submitted its first interim report on March 11, 2013

The tribunal's tenure lapsed in July, which led to the winding up of its office in the absence of any extension, after it submitted its second interim report that month.

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