The Chandigarh administration decided to postpone the inauguration of the new government school in Kishangarh village on Monday. The school was to open on November 14. As HT had highlighted last week, the school was built on a piece of land that remained under litigation for long and the ownership no longer lies with it.
Commenting on the same, education-cum-finance secretary Sarvjit Singh, who had been asked to resolve the issue at the earliest by the UT adviser repeatedly, said, “We will carry out all the legal formalities and ensure that the matter is settled and if the owner needs to be compensated, that will be done too.”
The UT had spent around 11 crores on the construction of the school building and a community centre on 3.5 acres of land, which was part of the 55.9 acres acquired from the village in 2003 to expand the second phase of Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park (IT park). According to information gathered under RTI, the UT administration had taken the possession of 18.6 acres of land and a school had been constructed on that.
The land, however, slipped out of the administration’s hands when the Punjab and Haryana high court quashed its acquisition notification in 2013, on grounds similar to which the Supreme Court had quashed the acquisition of about 275 acres of land for the third phase of the IT park, in October 2012. Soon after, the UT administration filed a special leave petition in the apex court, which too was dismissed on March 2014.
Since the administration lost in the court, the land had to be transferred to its original owners.
It is important to add that as per information received under RTI, the finance secretary’s office, in a note to the adviser in November, 2014, stated “in view of the clear legal advice, it appears the present land acquisition stands nullified and needs to be closed. Action may be initiated to recover the compensation in the legal manner. Whether to start acquisition afresh or not may be discussed in the light of the new act that is in force now”.
Manimajra based Prem Singh and his wife, Tej Kaur, are the actual owners of the land on which the two buildings stand. Their son Shamsher Singh claimed that the family is yet to receive any information from the administration regarding the next course of action.
Shamsher told HT, “While I don’t intend to impact the future of children who will be admitted in this school since the construction is already complete, but the least they can do is give us the compensation as per the new land acqusition act.”
The owners are entitled to compensation four times the collector’s rate in rural areas. In Kishangarh, the collector’s rate is 1.15 crore per acre.
Meanwhile, officials claim that the administration was in possession of the land when the construction began in 2012.
Besides, as HT highlighted in its last report, the construction was allowed despite the case pending in court and continued even after the high court quashed the land acquisition notification in 2013.
DPI Rubinderjit Singh Brar said, “The school will be inaugurated sometime later although the date has not
been finalised as yet. The estate office also had some concerns so they need to clear that at their end.”