Grabbers of govt land will get up to three years' jail term

Spl courts to look at extent of encroachment to decide punishment

The Karnataka Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2011, provides for imprisonment of one to three years for those convicted of grabbing government land.

 The law, which has received the assent of the President of India, will be gazetted later this week.

Under the law, the quantum of punishment for land-grabbers will be determined based on the extent of land-grab, Law Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters here on Tuesday.“Along with the jail term, the convicted land-grabbers will have to pay a fine of Rs 25,000,” he said. Special courts which will try such cases can increase the quantum of punishment if the offence is graver.

Under the Act, the government will set up a committee to investigate and refer land-grabbing cases to the special courts. The committee will be headed by a sitting or retired judge of the High Court. It will also comprise two sitting or retired district judges and as many revenue officials equivalent to the rank of deputy commissioner.

Jayachandra said that once the gazette was issued, he would seek an appointment with the Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka to make the list of eligible candidates for appointment to the committee and judges to the special courts.

The minister further said that the government would decide on the number of special courts to be set up after the discussion with the chief justice. A total of 400 people, including Group ‘D’ and ‘C’ personnel, will work for the land-grabbing prevention committee.

According to Jayachandra, the special court will have the powers of a civil or sessions court. When asked whether the courts or the committee will have the power to take up cases suo motu, the minister replied in the affirmative and said the committee could refer the cases to tahsildars. “The tahsildars as well as the special courts can take action suo motu if there is a prima facie case of land-grabbing,” he said. 

Law only in cities, towns

The Act will be enforced mainly in urban areas. “In rural areas, many other factors have to be considered, including the fact that farmers encroach upon government land for their livelihood. Several laws are already in place for regularising the land encroached upon by farmers or the poor for livelihood and residential purpose,” the minister said. “We don’t want to disturb them. Our intention of enforcing this law is to check commercial land-grabbing.” 

The Act, which the State government had proposed in 2007, was introduced in 2011 and sent to the President for his assent. Its enactment was delayed as the President sought several clarifications in the last four years.

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