New Delhi: Truth could be stranger than fiction. But the ‘reality’ of the VVIPs abusing the rules has been the order of the day during ‘sickular’ dispensations in the centre and provinces like Jammu & Kashmir.
Hence, the ‘reality’ is that years of lies and abuse of powers have given some individuals and dynasties’ some rights’ to feel extra-constitutional and extraordinarily privileged. This has harmed the ‘reputation’ of democracy and the rule of law, but none cared.
Almost seven decades back, around ten kanal of the State land had been given on a time-bound lease to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s brother-in-law Colonel Ghulam Qadir Nedou. A nominal annual rent was fixed.After Col. Ghulam Qadir’s death, this land has been in the possession of his son Omar Khaleel Nedou whose daughter Zainab was married to Faisal Patel, son of late Congress leader Ahmed Patel. The land came to her in 2011 (note the timing as the UPA regime was in Delhi), and she expired in June 2016. Now, officials say under a Government order, all such leases had been ‘cancelled’.
Even the iconic Nedous hotel was constructed on that land. This could be just a ‘nominal’ matter, literally.
Sources insist that the 110-Kanal premises of the ‘defunct Nedous hotel’ on Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar are linked to the ‘Abdullah family’.
The J&K administration has been in the process of ‘retrieving’ illegally occupied government land for the last few months. According to a report in a section of local media, the Srinagar District administration earlier this week launched a massive anti-encroachment drive in “all Tehsils of the district”. It could retrieve over 333 kanals of land, including 202 kanals and nine marlas of State land worth crores from land grabbers.
The DC, Srinagar, has sought the “cooperation of the general public” in its action against encroachments and also cautioned that the provisions of CrPC will be applied in matters of ‘encroachment on state lands.
In December 2022, the District Administration of Srinagar also launched such anti-encroachment drives and retrieved about 170 kanals of land from different parts of the city.
Sources said besides a few VVIP families, even others have made use of leniency in the implementation of laws, albeit to selective people and organisations.
About 200 Kanals of state lands given to Christian Missionary schools have been leased out against nominal premium and rent. Sources insist, “These properties and commercial housing establishments are valued at
around Rs 15 crore per Kanal. Most of these leases had already expired and these had not been revalidated,” a source said.
Even Hotel Pine Palace has been allegedly operating from land leased out to individuals. The lessee has allegedly also annexed State land of 7 Kanal and 6 Marlas in addition to the hotel land.
Sources said in the past six decades, there have been rampant incompetency and policy blunders via-a-vis lands. The J&K administration has adopted the centre’s newly enacted Model Tenancy Act, 2021.
This is seen as a reform strategy and has certain objectives. Among other targets, the new law aims to regulate the ‘renting of residential and commercial premises by establishing conditions for tenancy, eviction, and management of the property.
Even for private players, the new law proposes a three-tier adjudicatory mechanism consisting of Rent Authorities, Rent Courts, and Rent Tribunals for speedy adjudication of tenancy-related disputes.
On the other hand, officials say things at present are not merely confined to finding faults or pursuing any vendetta regime or ‘retrieving’ the lands.
The UT administration has taken steps for the development of housing colonies for government employees. Under this mechanism, MoU has been signed between Housing Board, J&K and the Central Government Employees Welfare Housing Organisation.
Reports also say that a prominent hotelier has taken possession of a piece of land originally leased out to someone else. The lease has expired, but the ‘hotelier’ has allegedly annexed adjacent State land of 3 Kanal with the same land.
Meanwhile, in a landmark move to a large extent, the Supreme Court on January 20, refused to pass any order seeking a stay on a circular issued by the Jammu & Kashmir Government directing deputy commissioners (DCs) to remove encroachments on State Land by January.
A bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar though expressed its disclination in not passing an order today, media reports said, adding, it orally asked the Union Territory government not to demolish any houses.
“We are not passing any orders today. You instruct them orally not to demolish any houses. But we will not grant a general stay.. others should not get the benefit”, the bench orally told the counsel of J&K, reports say.