Official report points to forgery and manipulation of records

The Kerala High Court, on Monday, asked the State government to conduct a thorough police investigation into the land-grab cases in which Salim Raj, former gunman of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, is allegedly involved. The directive was issued when the report of an inquiry conducted by the Principal Secretary, Revenue, G. Kamalavardhana Rao, came up before the court.

The court had ordered the inquiry on petitions filed by Shariffa of Ernakulam and Premchand R. Nair and others of Thiruvanathapuram, seeking an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged manipulation of revenue records to deprive them of their land, allegedly at the influence of Salim Raj. Justice Harun-Ul-Rashid observed that a thorough investigation should be conducted to find out who had colluded with revenue officials in forging and manipulating revenue records.

The inquiry report said the officials had committed the forgery and manipulation with the connivance of others. The revenue records in the two cases were fabricated and new Thandaper records created by “the revenue officials fraudulently with the help of some of the respondents and a few others, leading to social chaos.”

The court asked the government to inform it if action had been taken against the guilty revenue officials and if not, what action it proposed to take.

The inquiry report said the present issues had cropped up because the departments of Registration, Revenue and Survey had no common land database unlike other States which maintained such a repository. The Registration Department depended heavily on document writers, who were empowered to investigate the title of properties under the Document Writers’ Licence Rules.

The report recommended an amendment to the rules for holding the registration officer liable for any lapses. Besides, the registration rules should be amended to insist on Record of Right from the village officers at the time of registration of documents. Computerisation of land records would solve the issues.

The National Informatics Centres had taken up the computerisation project in a mission mode. The resurvey of villages, initiated in early 1990s, had not been completed.

The report said the revenue records perused showed no instructions given by the office of the Commissioner of Land Revenue to any of the subordinate officers on these issues. There were allegations that Salim Raj’s wife, who works in the office of the Land Revenue Commissioner, had exerted influence on the revenue officials.

The court adjourned the hearing in the cases to next week.

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