MLC says Minister grabbed forest land in Shopian
Taj: ‘Accountability Commission has probed and found the allegation baseless’
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Oct 10: Being in the eye of a storm from different quarters for allegedly ‘grabbing state lands’ and ‘indulging in corruption’, senior Congress leader and Minister of Irrigation, Public Health Engineering and Flood Control, Taj Mohiuddin, was confronted today in Legislative Council by National Panthers Party (NPP) member Syed Rafeeq Shah. Waving documents, Shah claimed that the Minister had grabbed about 14 Kanals of forest land in Sedhav area, between the famous tourist resort of Aharbal and district headquarters of Shopian in southern
Reply to Mr Rafeeq Shah’s question had been deferred last week as the
Mian Altaf Ahmad, did not have details available with him. Shah had asked
whether a Minister had encroached upon forest land measuring nearly 14 Kanals
in Sedhav area of Shopian. He had also desired to know if Forest Department had
initiated any investigation or action to remove the ‘illegal occupation’. Minister incharge Forest
On the last day of the autumn session today, Shah’s deferred question was replied by Minister of Forest, Mian Altaf Ahmad. Forest Minister said that Government had no knowledge of a Minister having grabbed forest land in Sedhav area of Shopian. He, nevertheless, said that Forest Department was examining and investigation the allegation and necessary action under law would be taken if the MLC’s allegation proved to be correct.
Shah got up and began waving papers---purportedly the Revenue records made available to an applicant under RTI Act. Even as he had not identified the Minister in his question, obviously for fear of deletion by the Council Secretariat, he identified him today as none other than Choudhary Taj Mohiuddin S/o Brig (Retd) Khuda Bakhsh R/o Batmaloo,
. Claiming to be quoting the replies
provided under RTI, Shah read out a purported report of Tehsildar of Shopian. According
to the document, Taj had grabbed 10 Kanals and 16 Marlas of forest land under
survey No: 4/1 and 3 Kanals more under survey No: 1162/709. Srinagar
Shah said that Tehsildar had certified the encroachment having taken place 27 years back and Taj having applied for its propriety rights under ‘Roshni Act’ in 2001. He claimed that DFO Shopian had reported that the land in question had not been transferred to the applicant as it was forest land and could not be granted to the applicant under Roshni Act. He demanded constitution of a House Committee for the purpose of detailed investigation and necessary action in the matter.
Forest Minister Mian Altaf asserted that after taking cognizance of Shah’s accusation, Forest Department was holding further investigation into the matter. He assured the House that an action could be taken only after the allegation against the Minister was substantiated with a proof. He asserted that there was no need of constituting a House Committee at this stage.
Shah retorted that it was a substantial allegation and could be verified. He said that Forest Minister Mian Altaf was a man of high integrity and nobody could question his credentials but, at the same time, it required to be investigated by a higher forum whether the records had been mutilated or the Minister had really brought the forest land under his illegal occupation.
NC’s MLC, Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy, and Minister incharge Medical Education, R.S. Chib supported Forest Minister’s contention that there was no need of holding a House Committee investigation in advance of a detailed investigation by
Forest and Revenue
Departments. However, PDP’s Murtaza Khan supported Shah and stressed on
immediate constitution of House Committee.
Chairman, Amrit Malhotra, directed next issue of Business with an assertion that he would listen to both, MLC as well as Minister, examine the records and other evidences and thereafter announce his decision in the matter.
However, within half-an-hour Taj Mohiuddin entered the House with a bundle of documents in his defence. Exercising his right to reply, he claimed that the land had been in his lawful possession since 1970 and 12 Kanals of it had been duly transferred to him under Roshni Act nearly a decade ago. He said that this matter had been investigated even by J&K Accountability Commission but had been dropped as the Commission, according to him, had found nothing amiss. He later claimed that Mr Shah was actually settling his personal scores with him as he (Minister and Chairman of District Development Board Kupwara) had once ordered the MLC’s exit from an official meeting on account of ‘indiscipline’.
Chairman Amrit Malhotra reiterated that he would announce his decision---whether or not to assign this investigation to a House Committee---after listening to both the parties and examining their respective documents and revenue records thoroughly. Taj declared that he would resign as Minister and legislator in case Shah’s allegation against him proved to be correct. Later, Chairman concluded the session and declared it sine die.
Continuously a Minister since 2002,Taj has been in a whirlpool of accusations from different quarters. In
wing of High Court, he is facing charges of having grabbed an expanse of the
state land beside Tawi river and having developed it with misuse of official
position. His party colleague and former Minister of Social Welfare, Abdul Gani
Vakil, has leveled serious allegations of corruption, misuse of official
position and land grabbing against Taj. Jammu
However, Taj has taken the allegation seriously and made his Government file a defamation suit against Vakil in a court in
. He has strongly rebutted all
allegations against him and claimed that his detractors and political rivals
had been selectively targeting him to settle personal scores. Suit against
Vakil has been filed by the state Government on behalf of the Minister with the
approval of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who is holding charge of General
Administration Department. Srinagar
Later today, Taj told journalists that would move a privilege motion against Shah in the Budget session in
“The land is my proprietary land. I have records of the land and I own it since
1970. Jammu Forest land is far away from my land. 12
kanals of the land have been transferred to my name through Roshni Act. The
case has been rejected by the Accountability Commission in 2004,” he said.