The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre seeking its response on a PIL seeking CBI probe into alleged encroachment and misuse of defence land across the country.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam agreed to hear the petition and issued notice on a PIL that alleged mismanagement of defence lands leading to various scams including Sukna, Adarsh Society and others. “The issue requires our consideration,” the Bench observed.
NGO Common Cause had filed a PIL which also sought direction for a comprehensive audit of defence lands to recover the lands under encroachment as well as the losses to the public exchequer on account of its unauthorised and commercial exploitation.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, referred to various CAG reports to highlight encroachment of defence land and said,“The Defence Ministry is the biggest landholder in the country with a holding of 17.31 lakh acres, of which approximately 1.57 lakh acres are situated within the 62 notified Cantonments and about 15.96 lakh acres are outside these Cantonments.”
“It is submitted that the prevalent mismanagement of defence lands has been the reason of several infamous land scams which have come into light recently, including Sukna land scam, Adarsh Society land Scam, Jammu & Kashmir land scam, Jodhpur land scam, Lohegaon, Pune land scam and Kandivli, Mumbai land scam. In most defence land scams unearthed over the past few years, Defence Estate officials have been found to be hand-in-glove with Army officials and private developers,” the petition said.
The NGO submitted said that there is complete lack of accountability and transparency in the use and management of defence land, resulting in a huge loss to the public exchequer. It sought a court-monitored CBI investigation into “illegalities and irregularities in the management of Defence lands, constitution of an independent task force for comprehensive audit of defence lands, recovery of defence lands under encroachment and reparation of losses occasioned to public exchequer on account of their unauthorised use and commercial use”.
“It has been pointed by the CAG that the encroachment of defence land has increased from 6,903 acres in January 1997 to 14,539.38 acres in July 2009. This has resulted in huge loss to public exchequer and a complete violation of the rule of law, the doctrine of public trust,” the petition said.