The Jammu and Kashmir government on October 31 declared all the actions taken under the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, under which 20 lakh kanals of land was to be transferred to existing occupants, as “null and void”. Earlier in 2018, Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik had pronounced the law “no longer relevant” because it had “failed to realise the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions”.
What is Roshni Act:
The law, which had proposed to transfer ownership of state land to its occupants for a fee determined by the government, was popularly known as the Roshni Act, as the proceeds from these transactions were to fund power projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
It was enacted by the then Farooq Abdullah government in 2001, and it set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.
The Roshni scheme initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals of land (1,2,50 hectares) to occupants of which 15.85 per cent of land was approved for vesting of ownership rights.
The transactions under the Roshni Act had been halted in 2018 after Jammu and Kashmir went under governor’s rule and Governor Satya Pal Malik had pronounced the law “no longer relevant”. And that was before the state was stripped of special status under Article 370 and split into two Union Territories.
A CAG report estimated that against the targeted Rs 25,000 crore, only Rs 76 crore had been realised from the transfer of land into private ownership.
'Completely unconditional', says J&K HC
Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court pronounced the Roshni Act “completely unconstitutional, contrary to law and unsustainable” and ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe on the “land scam” enabled by the law.
Politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats had come under severe criticism for transferring state land into their ownership and that of their favourites at arbitrarily fixed rates, which ultimately deprived the state of land worth several thousand crores and also defeated the purpose of the act.
Farooq Abdullah accused of illegally acquiring govt land
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been named in the Roshni land scam. According to details available, Farooq illegally acquired seven Kanal land (605 square yards) of government land in the 90s.
Back in 1998, Farooq in Sunjwan of Jammu had purchased 3 Kanal land. But he took possession of 7 Kanal land in the nearby forest area. The market value of the said land is estimated to be around Rs 10 crore.