Infamous Gulmarg Land Scam: Court defers orders on framing of charges till June 25

Baramulla  :  The Baramulla anti-corruption Court has deferred the orders on framing of charges in the ‘infamous’ Gulmarg Land Scam .  Additional Sessions Judge Baramulla (with powers of Special Judge Anti-Corruption) Jatinder Singh Jamwal has deferred the orders till June 25, 2016.

On the last hearing last week a battery of lawyers representing the high profile accused Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) former Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan (IAS) former Deputy Commissioner Baramulla  and incumbent  Commissioner Secretary Cooperatives Department, Sarmed Hafiz the then Joint Director Tourism Department and now VC LAWDA , Rafiq Ahmad then Assistant Commissioner Revenue Baramulla, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah then Naib Tehsildar Kunzar, Garib Singh then Tehsildar Tangmarg, Farooq Ahmad Shah then Additional Deputy Commissioner Baramulla and more than eight top hoteliers of Kashmir Valley filed their written arguments before the Additional Sessions Judge Baramulla in support of their arguments advanced at the stage of charge/discharge.

On the last date of hearing Senior Advocate Zaffar Ahmed Shah representing the accused had  argued for the discharge of the accused pleading  that Vigilance Organization Kashmir (VOK) wrongly booked the accused in this case and on the other hand the Public Prosecutor representing VOK justified the registration of FIR and sought framing of charges against the high profile accused. The Public Prosecutor had further submitted that the accused public servants entered into a criminal conspiracy with the high profile hoteliers/beneficiaries and deprived the State of valuable land running into crores of Rupees. He further submitted that there was no question of grant of ownership rights to the beneficiaries/ hoteliers when the land was outside the purview of the Roshini Act and had been transferred to Gulmarg Development Authority.

The Gulmarg Land scam came into limelight in the year 2009 when VOK registered FIR No.08/2009 on March 6, 2009 against the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Mehboob Iqbal (IAS), Baseer Khan (IAS) the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Garib Singh the then Tehsildar Tangmarg, Farooq Ahmed Shah the then Additional Deputy Commissioner (now retired), Sarmed Hafiz the then Joint Director Tourism Department, Rafiq Ahmed then Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Baramulla, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah Naib Tehsildar Kunzar and the beneficiaries Abdul Hamid Dar S/o Lassa Dar R/o Chadilaral, Tangmarg, Sayed Msadik Shah S/o Syed Mehboob Shah R/o Ishar Nishat (attorney holder), Mohd Ibrahim Khan S/o Ghulam Hassan R/o Wazir Bagh, Srinagar, Essar Smith, Nasik Ahmad Mir S/o Mohd Maqbool Mir R/o Hari Watnee, Tangmarg, Mohd Afzal Khandey S/o Mohd Rehsan Khandey R/o Sopore, Gh. Mohammad Matee S/o Aziz Shah Matee R/o Nageen, Srinagar and Mushtaq Ahmad S/o Ab. Arshad Burra, Mansoor Ahmed Burra S/o Gh. Ahmed (Attorney Holder). According to the FIR the accused Public servants entered into criminal conspiracy with the beneficiaries to illegally possess and vest the ownership on the land in Gulmarg estate when the beneficiaries were not eligible under J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership rights to the Occupants) Act, 2001 commonly known as Roshni Act.

According to the FIR the accused Garib Singh the then Tehsildar Tangmarg received 34 applications which included the applications of beneficiaries for grant of proprietary rights on the land in Gulmarg estate under the Roshni Act from 12-01-2007 to 31-03-2007. It was found that accused Tehsildar in furtherance of criminal conspiracy had resorted to manipulation of records and dishonestly shown received the applications before cut of date i.e. 31-03-2007. The FIR further says that the Tehsildar Tangmarg made an enquiry and forwarded the cases of the beneficiaries to Baseer Khan the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla on different dates varying from 21-06-2008 to 21-07-2008 i.e. much after the convening of meeting of empowered committee on 04-06-2008, falsely certifying therein that the land in question does not belong to any Government Department and is not required for any public purpose. FIR further said that it was found that Baseer Khan then District Collector Baramulla was informed by his subordinate staff that the applications were deficient and incomplete as per the provisions of Roshni Act but Mr. Baseer Khan willfully ignored the information and despite possessing knowledge of the fact that land  in question under the occupation of applicants (beneficiaries) stands earmarked for specific use i.e. construction of Hutments etc. in the Master Plan of Gulmarg Development Authority dishonestly under a conspired plan forwarded the case of ineligible beneficiaries to the Empowered Committee constituted under the Roshni Act.

FIR No. 08/2009 VOK further says that the accused public servants (Members of Empowered Committee) under the chairmanship of Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and Baseer Khan then Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla and other members of the Empowered Committee derived knowledge from the public documents that the land in question stands earmarked for the specific use i.e. construction of Hutments in the Master Plan of GDA notified vide Govt. order No.137-TSM of 2005 dated 13-06-2005 and cabinet decision No.98/7 dated 03-05-2003 dishonestly vested the ownership of the land to the beneficiaries.

According to the FIR No.08/2009 the public servants as a part of criminal conspiracy dishonestly vested the ownership rights of the land measuring 2 Kanals 3 Marlas, 12 Kanals 13 Marlas, falling under Khasra No.812/250, No.889/250 in Gulmarg estate even to attorney holders namely Musadik Shah S/o Syed Masood Shah R/o Isbhar Nishat and Mansoor Ahmad Burza S/o Ghulam Ahmad who were not entitled to it. It was also found that lease in respect of above land had since expired and all this was done to confer undue benefit upon the attorney holders.

FIR No.08/2009 further says that minutes of the Empowered Committee were issued vide no.DCB/CDA/2008/Roshni/920 dated 06-06-2008. The accused public servants Rafi Ahmad then Assistant Commissioner (Revenue) Baramulla and Garib Singh then Tehsildar Tangmarg subsequently issued notice under section 8(3) of the Roshni Act to accused beneficiaries Abdul Hamid Dar, Mushtaq Ahmed Ganaie, Mushtaq Ahmed Burza, Enar Smith and Manzoor Ahmed Burza respectively to make the payment in lieu of vesting of ownership of land to them under the Act. The beneficiaries subsequently deposited the part of the price of the land determined by accused public servants as members of Empowered Committee.

It is worthwhile to mention herein that after the registration of the FIR No.08/2009 VOK, some of the accused sought the quashment of FIR in Srinagar Wing of the High Court and the State High Court dismissed the said writ petition and gave green signal to the VOK to go ahead with the investigation. The VOK after completion of investigation sought the sanction for prosecution from the State Government but due to lackadaisical approach the sanction was delayed.

At this stage two Social Activists of Jammu Sheikh Muhammad Shafi and Prof. S.K. Bhalla filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) titled Sheikh Muhammad Shafi v/s Union of India and ors in the Jammu Wing of the High Court in which directions were sought to the State Government to accord sanction for prosecution in six high profile FIRs including FIR No.08/2009 VOK pertaining to the Gulmarg Land Scam.

A Division Bench of the State High Court headed by then Chief Justice M.M. Kumar after expressing displeasure over the dilatory tactics of the State Government in September, 2013 directed the SVO to produce the Challan against Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) the then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir who had retired by that time and other accused in the Court of Sp.

Wani Javid