The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India’s report, which is being finalised by the Principal Accountant-General (PAG) and which will be submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in the coming Budget session, has indicted a several IAS and Kashmir Administrative Service officers for their “involvement” in the Roshni scam and “non-cooperation” with the auditors.
While the officers having functioned as Deputy Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners in the past 10 years have been censured for “gross irregularities and embezzlement,” senior bureaucrats have been indicted for “non-cooperation” with auditors who carried out the yearlong exercise.
PAG Subhash Chander Pandey refused to confirm or deny the information accessed by The Hindu . Well-placed authoritative sources, however, confirmed that the PAG had not only “concluded” the report but also requested Chief Vigilance Commissioner Kuldeep Khoda to order a detailed investigation to fix criminal culpability of the public servants and beneficiaries of land transfers. Acting on the PAG’s October 8, 2013 letter, the State Vigilance Commission directed its investigating arm, Vigilance Organisation, to start preliminary verification and file First Information Reports.
Those being hauled up for “non-cooperation” with the audit panels include Financial Commissioner, Revenue, Arun Kumar; Secretary, Revenue, Vinod Kaul; and Secretary, Administrative Reforms, Ghulam Hassan Tantray. Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday and Principal Secretary, Finance, Bharat Bhushan Vyas have also been mentioned among those who allegedly did not cooperate in the audit.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, also named the Roshni Act, came into force on March 1, 2002, for granting ownership rights to the “authorised occupants” of specified land. The Roshni Scheme was aimed at generating a corpus of Rs.15,000 crore-Rs. 25,000 crore from the proceeds of the sale of more than 1.90 lakh acres for building some power projects. However, the beneficiaries needed to apply within a timeline and categorisation of the land with necessary mapping as commercial, residential and agricultural.
Among other things, the auditors have found that most of the conditions had been violated in the identification and verification of the land. Revenue entries, including the fundamental Girdhawari extracts, have been criminally compromised. Change of land use and category has been ignored for drastically reducing the prices. Consequently, the sale proceeds in the past 11 years have been a paltry Rs. 76 crore. Even the land held by the government departments, like the Jammu Development Authority, which were outside the purview of the Roshni Act, have been founded transferred to unauthorised occupants. Stamp duty worth hundreds of crores has been dispensed with in almost all cases.
The PAG’s office noticed “unprecedented irregularities” and wrote the first letter with a draft note, No: PAG- Sectt/ Review/Roshni/200, to Arun Kumar, Financial Commissioner, Revenue, on December 26, 2012, seeking replies to specific observations.
On March 4, 2013, a reminder went to Mr. Kumar, with copies to Mr. Vyas and Mr. Tantary, who was then Secretary of Law. Another reminder under No: PAG- Sectt/j/2013-14/197-199 was dispatched to Mr. Kumar, Mr. Vyas and Mr. Tantray on April 17. On May 28, another reminder was sent to Mr. Kaul, with copies to Mr. Vyas and Mr. Kumar.
As there was no reply to its queries, the PAG dashed off further reminders on July 3. On July 16, the matter was brought to the notice of Mohammad Ramzan. Through No: PAG- Sectt/s/Roshni Act/2013-14/55 dated July 31, the PAG reported the matter to Mr. Khanday, with copies marked for other officials. After two more reminders, on August 12 and 19, the PAG sent further reminders to the Chief Secretary on August 19, September 5 and September 13. Finally, the matter was referred to the State Vigilance Commission on October 8.