Sood Commission raps HP govt on Benami land deals
Shimla: The Sood Commission set up to probe Benami land deals in Himachal Pradesh has recommended scrapping of the HP Apartment and Property Regulation Act as majority of the builders were creating a concrete jungle and spoiling the natural forested environment.
The one-man enquiry commission headed by former High Court Judge DP Sood asked the government to either implement section 118 of the Tenancy and Land Reforms Act in letter and spirit or repeal it.
Observing that 95 per cent of the allottees in apartments were outsiders, Sood said, the demand of housing for Himachalis could easily be met by the Himachal Urban Development Authority (HIMUDA).
The Act was meant to regulate colonies and property transactions, check haphazard constructions, registration of promoters, promotion of construction, sale, transfer and management of apartments on ownership basis.
But as majority of the builders are creating a concrete jungle and spoiling the natural forested environment, the Act should be immediately withdrawn and all construction activities and their control be handed over to the HIMUDA, the Commission said in its 147-page report.
Section 118 was a unique provision that barred all non-agriculturist Himachalis, including the bona fide Himachalis, from purchasing any land in the state without the permission of the government.
All transactions in violation of this section are construed as "benami land deals".
The Commission has conveyed its strong displeasure as to how prime land in the state was allowed to be sold to non-agriculturists and outsiders with the consent of the government and its officials.
It has recommended confiscation of at least 42 illegally acquired proprieties by certain individuals and firms between 2006 and 2007.
Taking cognisance of the fact that river beds and rocky slopes were allowed to be used for commercial purpose in the state, the Commission in its report observed that callous and un-pragmatic attitude of the authorities was the root cause of pollution of rivers and habitation on the river bed.
Expressing concern over violations of environment protection laws, the Commission said that "Forests are vanishing, rock blasts are traumatising wild animals and debris is filling up riverbeds with builders having a field day in Himachal Pradesh".
Pointing out that the natural flow of water should not be obstructed compelling the river to change its course towards the low-lying villages, the Commission said that "It is a criminal offence not to visualise the after-effects of tampering with the river bed".