The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report tabled in the State Legislature on Tuesday has exposed Congress and National Conference — two principal mainstream political parties — as “institutional beneficiaries” of the Rs 25,000-crore Roshni scam in Jammu and Kashmir.

While as Congress grabbed eight Kanals of prime State land on the fashionable Residency Road and The Bund for the party-controlled Khidmat Trust, NC raised its party headquarters ‘Nawai-e-Subuh’ under the auspices of Nawai-e-Subuh Trust on the similarly grabbed State land of four Kanals.

Both the parties got the lands transferred to the two trusts under the garb of The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, commonly known as the ‘Roshni Act’, against peanuts, in brazen violation of rules and norms.

The Price Committee headed by the Kashmir Divisional Commissioner put the two prime properties' market value at Rs 13.10 crore in 2007 though these are currently valued at Rs 100 crore, including the cost of the building constructed. Leased out to commercial establishments, the five-floor buildings also serve as the headquarters of the two political parties’ official organs — Khidmat and Nawa-e-Subuh—besides the two dailies’ printing presses. NC has set up its party headquarters and most of its State and provincial offices at Nawa-e-Subuh Complex.

Even under the ‘Roshni’ Act, these properties were required to be transferred to the two land grabbers on commercial rates. Officials, however, charged ‘charity’ rates. Such kind of the grabbed State lands were conveniently brought under the ambit of the Roshni Act by the rules framed by the Executive and not ratified by the Legislature. It was done to benefit selective “educational, religious, charitable, non-profitable, social institutions, Trusts, Societies, political parties recognized by Election Commission of India”, granting them rebate of 50 to 85 percent on the rates fixed by the Price Committees.

“In contravention of the said provisions of the Act, lands were transferred to seven ‘institutional entities in Srinagar with no safeguards…”, said the CAG report. It pointed out in detail how 7 Kanals and 16 Marlas of the land was transferred to Khidmat Trust and 3 Kanals and 16 Marlas of the land to Nawai-e-Subuh Trust for just peanuts.

“Thus, lands valued by the committee at Rs 13.10 crore were approved for transfer at a price of Rs 1.97 crore against which only Rs 1.47 crore had been collected”, said the CAG report. It pointed out that these lands could be transferred only on commercial rate. Officials of Revenue Department were under legal obligation to start eviction of the occupants “within two months” in case they failed to deposit the money in full. None of them discharged the duty.

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