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    Published On : Mon, Oct 8th, 2012

    Was 100-acre ‘zudpi jungle’ sold in irregular transaction? – The Times of India

    NAGPUR: Even as every inch of forest land matters with increasing pressure for diversion, sale of 99.76 acres prime land in Gondkhairi on Amravati road, which was classified and recorded as zudpi jungle, has snowballed into a big controversy.

    The forest land, whose present market value is estimated to be Rs30 crore, was sold for Rs66 lakh to owners of Hotel Centre Point in the city. The forest land has been ordered to be recorded in the name of private person Pyare Khan, a resident of Bele Nagar, on Old Kamptee Road. However, forest department has filed an appeal before divisional commissioner and it is to come up for hearing on October 21.

    The said land in survey no. 277 (old survey no. 176/2) is recorded since 1954-55 in the name of revenue department. In 1956, the Madhya Pradesh government prepared ‘Nistar Patrak’ of the land vested in government and its use has been shown for timber and grazing. It was classified as ‘zudpi jungle’. At least from 1956 and probably even prior to it, it has not been recorded in the name of either Pyare Khan or any other private person.

    According to the petitioner-forest department, the land was handed over to it on September 3, 1994. Regardless of this, Pyare Khan Balwir Khan is alleged to have admitted an application on January 12, 1998, addressed to the deputy conservator, Nagpur, that he was made landless and he be made landowner without enclosing documents of title like 7/12 (Saat Bara) showing his name etc.

    On the face of it, it has been admitted after 44 years of Nistar when publicly it was declared as government land. The application was rejected by subdivisional officer (SDO) on January 14, 2002, and by collector in second appeal on April 8, 2003.

    Pyare Khan, through power of attorney holder, filed an appeal before the additional commissioner, who on January 24, 2006, remanded the matter to subdivisional officer (SDO), Saoner, for fresh decision.

    Surprisingly, even before the matter could be decided by the SDO, Khan filed a review application with the state government. It was heard by Narayan Rane, who was then revenue minister. The matter got a twist after Rane intervened. He remanded the matter to additional collector, Nagpur, instead of Saoner SDO. The additional collector on January 5, 2009, decided in favour of Khan without considering the fact that Khan had never paid land revenue on it.

    When TOI went to Pyare Khan’s house in Bele Nagar, his eldest son Shafiq Khan, whose name figures on the sale deed, said, “Pyare Khan lived in penury and had no money to pay tax.”

    Nagpur division forest officials say they were kept in the dark. However, forest officials virtually slept over the matter for two years and filed an appeal in the high court only on February 2, 2011. P K Mahajan, deputy conservator of forests (DyCF), Nagpur, says, “we have a strong case. The sale deed seems to be preconceived,” he said. He admitted delay in filing an appeal.

    The sale deed has already been executed in favour of respondents Gurmukh Singh Bhasin, Sutinderpal Singh Arora, Jasbir Singh Arora, all residents of Ramdaspeth, and Ravleensingh Khurana, Dharampeth, belonging to family that runs Hotel Centre Point.

    The appeal is being conducted by special counsel for forest M P Badar and Sandeep Bahirwar while respondents are being represented by Dewani and others.

    Forest department objections

    * Pyare Khan appears to be a bogus person and real litigants are power of attorney holders Gurumukh Singh and others. The application submitted is only to delete the name of government and record name of Pyare Khan.

    * As per 1912-13, no record in favour of Pyare Khan. Why application has been submitted after 44 years from publication of ‘Nistar Patrak’. No 7/12 extract in the name of Pyare Khan either as owner or cultivator throughout all these years. There is no proof of cultivation of this land.

    * It is a ‘zudpi jungle’ and forest department has done plantation and high trees are standing. No person will leave such a property on main Nagpur-Amravati highway and road going to Hingna.

    * No permission has been obtained under the Forest Conservation Act 1980. Sale deed executed is by several co-owners who were not parties to litigation. Pyare Khan never paid land revenue.

    * Two government officers rejected Pyare Khan’s plea. But after it went to then revenue minister Narayan Rane, the outcome was quite opposite.

    It is a private land, claim Aroras Vijay Pinjarkar

    The respondents S Gurumukh Singh Bhasin along with Sutinderpal Singh and Jasbir Singh Arora have said government’s name has been mutated on 99.76 acre land at Gondkhairi in Kalmeshwar tehsil by mistake and the land in question belongs to forefathers of Pyare Khan according to Bandobast Record of 1912-13.

    Aroras told TOI that as per government record of 1912-13, the land was owned by Chand Khan. He cultivated the land till he died in 1950. Later, Bahadar Khan, brother of Chand Khan, cultivated the said field.

    After the death of Bahadar Khan, names of his two sons Ahmad Khan and Pyare Khan were mutated in land record and continued the cultivation of the field till the sale deed in 2009. However, in 1954-55 without any notice to the applicant Pyare Khan, nor any acquisition, government’s name was mutated in the land record by mistake. In 1990, Pyare Khan came to know of it and on September 13, 1990, a notice was issued by him to secretary of revenue and forest department and the collector for correction.

    On January 12, 1998, Pyare Khan along with his brother applied to the divisional commissioner for correction of records claiming as owner of old survey No. 176. The commissioner directed the collector who in turn directed the tehsildar to enquire and submit a report.

    The tehsildar submitted a report to SDO on July 9, 2001, saying the changes were done without any basis and the land had not been converted to Zudpi Jungle according to rightful legal procedure. The report further mentions that the lawful owners were divested of the land without any hearing.

    The Aroras claimed the report also said that forest department communicated no objection of the land being returned to the owner as it did not have any interest and the land was transferred by revenue department only. However, the SDO on January 14, 2002, rejected the claim on grounds that Pyare Khan and his brother were unable to prove their title.

    Asked why Narayan Rane suddenly intervened, Aroras said it was because considerable time had passed after the application of Pyare Khan for relief and justice. They claimed the PCCF in his letter on October 12, 2007, stated that in 1994 when the land was shown as Zudpi Jungle, it was transferred to the forest department by the revenue department. How this change occurred should be examined by the revenue department.

    After a period of more than two years, the forest department in 2011 preferred an appeal with the divisional commissioner against the order of the additional collector. The commissioner without giving an opportunity passed an ex-parte order in favour of the forest department.

    Aroras through writ petition challenged the order in the high court, whereupon the court granted an ad-interim stay on the effect and operation of the order of the divisional commissioner. The additional commissioner has been told to decide the matter afresh.

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