Senior IAS officer Anil Kumar, currently holding the post of Chandigarh Home Secretary, and another IAS officer S C Goel, have earned the High Court’s wrath for passing numerous orders “without jurisdiction” during their tenure as Director, Consolidation, Haryana. Their acts have been described as playing a “mammoth fraud upon the law”. A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain had set aside 20 orders passed by the two officers last week which facilitated exchange of over 150 kanals of shamlat land in Gurgaon to private builders. The 25-page detailed judgment, which includes scathing remarks by the bench, was made available today.
The division bench referred to the observation made by a Single Bench of Justice Ajai Lamba in a land acquisition case of Haryana involving Anil Kumar, that it was an example of “total abuse of powers and authority vested by law” by allowing “exchange of shamlat land that belongs to the Gram Panchayat”. Justice Lamba had also said that “before parting with the order, I have to observe that the land falling in shamlat deh, that is under the management and control of Gram Panchayat which is required to be used for common purposes, is being dealt with by the authorities casually, de hors the statutory provisions and de hors the interest of the Gram Sabha. One such example has been set up by Anil Kumar, IAS, Director Consolidation, Haryana, Panchkula, who in total abuse of powers and authority vested by law, has allowed exchange of land that belongs to the Gram Panchayat”.
In the detailed judgment, authored by Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain, the division bench has held, “We feel that facts of the present case appears to be a tip of an iceberg as numerous orders might have been passed by the Director Consolidation with regard to the exchange of Gram Panchayat land with the colonizers/ builders or even individual persons”.
Holding this, the High Court, in a direction which will have far reaching consequences has directed “all the divisional commissioners in Haryana to prepare list of all such cases decided in the past under Section 42 of the East Punjab Holdings Act, wherein Panchayat land has been ordered to be exchanged with the land of the private parties, while exercising powers under Section 42 of the Act and without specific prior approval of Haryana much less the department of Development and Panchayats” and place the report within six months.
Mincing no words, the division bench held, “The facts of this case, to be narrated and discussed hereinafter, open the pandora box and put a question mark on the act and conduct, efficiency and integrity of the office of Director Consolidation of Haryana exercising powers under Section 42 of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation & Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948. The petitioner has highlighted a mammoth fraud played upon the law by the authorities prescribed under the Act while passing numerous orders in utter violation of their jurisdiction”. Senior lawyer Ashish Aggarwal, counsel for the petitioner had alleged that the orders passed by the two IAS officers in the capacity of Director, Consolidation are “patently illegal” and “without jurisdiction”.
It might be mentioned here that the High Court referred to an affidavit filed by Dr Ashok Khemka, present Director General (Consolidation of Holdings), Haryana who had “exposed” the wrong orders passed by his two predecessors.
HC finding on how Section 42 of the Act has been misused
“A bare look at Section 42 of the Act would show that it empowers the State government to call for the record of any order passed, scheme prepared or confirmed or repartition made by any office under the Act. Obviously, the authority exercising the powers under this Section can examine any order which has been passed by any officer under the Act, namely the Consolidation officer, the settlement officer (Consolidation) or the Assistant Director (Consolidation) against the scheme or repartition. As a matter of fact, the powers under Section 42 are revisionary in nature which can be exercised against an order passed by a subordinate authority or a scheme of repartition, if it suffers from an impropriety or illegality. Section 42 of the Act does not empower the state government to pass an order of exchange of land by the Gram Panchayat to a person or company. It is reiterated that the Director Consolidation under the Act has no power to pass an order regarding exchange of land of the Gram Panchayat in exercise of powers under Section 42 of the act”, the High Court has ruled.