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The Supreme Court has directed all state governments, the Centre and Union Territories to evict illegal encroachers from public lands in villages across the country and restore them to village bodies.
It said the land mafia, in connivance with the political leadership and revenue officials, has deprived the poor of land meant for schools, ponds, dispensaries and community services. A bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra directed chief secretaries of all the states to file their responses by first week of May of steps they had taken to implement its directive. Expressing concern over the “blatant illegalities” perpetrated in the villages, the judges directed the authorities to raze all constructions, including private houses, built on illegally occupied public land.
Declaring Gram Sabha as the owner of the land, the judges refused to regularise the “illegalities’’ because it was Gram Sabha land for the common use of villagers. It lambasted the Punjab government for its letter of September 2007 that permitted regularization of massive chunks of land in different villages. In case such orders were passed by any other state government, they must be “ignored” as they are illegal, the judges ruled.
Giving the genesis of the concept of village land, the bench said “We wish to say that our ancestors were not fools. They knew there might be droughts or water shortages in some years for some or the other reason, and water was also required for cattle to drink and bathe in,’’ the court said, adding that making landfills of ponds and erecting buildings on vacant public land, villagers facemany problems including water shortage.“The time has come when these malpractices must stop,’’ the bench said.
Source: Daily News and Analysis