Having waited for a decade for the senior government officials to act, Gurmukh Singh, the whistleblower in the Rs 180 crore land scam at Jhamat village, finally moved an application for a contempt petition in the Supreme Court, which was followed by issuance of notices to 39 individuals, including 11 senior government officials.
These include former and serving principal secretaries, directors, deputy commissioners, district development and panchayat officers, consolidation officers, sarpanches and panches. They have been asked to file a reply.
The Jhamat land scam was unveiled by Hindustan Times on August 18, 2010, under the heading, ‘Jhamat villagers allege sale of 18.5 acres panchayat land worth 180 crore’. Since then Hindustan Times has followed the case closely.
Half a dozen inquiries from the officials of the rank of director panchayats to the additional deputy commissioner (development) and block development and panchayat officer testifying the illegal sale of the gram panchayat land failed to ensure the retrieval of land or action against the guilty.
Also, the orders of former director of panchayats Gurdev Singh Sidhu and former additional DC Rishipal Singh, which were for the filing of a fresh writ petition in the Supreme Court, have not been carried out.
The land adjoining South City, a posh locality of Ludhiana, is worth about Rs 180 crore. A part of it is with real-estate developers and a part with the private house owners. The petition was called for hearing on August 25 and the next hearing is scheduled for September 8.
On December 13, 1992, Bhan Singh, sarpanch of Jhamat for two decades till 1990, and more than 60 other influential people had filed an appeal in the court of the Punjab consolidation officer that the 18.5 acres of land belonged to them.
The case was referred to the consolidation officer of Sangrur and transferred to the consolidation officer in Jalandhar, Harbhajan Singh, in 1994.
The then sarpanch, Sukhpal Singh, refuted the claims of these individuals but failed to produce any record in defence. The consolidation officer ruled that the land never belonged to the panchayat, giving possession to the 68 claimants.
Former rural development minister Surjit Singh Rakhra had directed the law officer of the department recently to inquire into the matter; that report, submitted on June 6 last, had also asked department director R Krishna Raju to file a case in the Supreme Court.
The high court had quashed the ADC’s orders of handing over the land to private individuals, instructing the Ludhiana deputy commissioner’s court to decide the matter as per law, but nothing happened.