The Supreme Court has sought response from the Centre on a PIL seeking urgent steps to free more than 14,000 acres of encroached defence land which is allegedly being commercially exploited by the land mafia.
A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar issued notice to the government on the plea which has also sought creation of a ‘unified authority’ to take steps to free the encroached defence land.
The direction by the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, came after the court was informed by the counsel appearing for petitioner S N Bharadwaj about a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report tabled in Parliament on the matter.
According to the report, the encroached defence land had increased from 6,903 acres in 1997 to 14,539 acres in 2009.
The PAC report has also said that existence of multiple authorities like Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE) and local military authorities (LMAs), that look after the management of defence lands, have only aggravated the situation for want of clear demarcation of responsibility.
“Creation of a single unified authority, which shall look into the management and protection of defence lands, fast- track recovery of the encroached lands and shall also be responsible for monitoring and supervision of all field offices entrusted with the re sponsibility to manage defence lands and properties,” the committee’s December 31, 2013, report to the Parliament had recommended.
The Supreme Court had issued notice to the Centre on May 24, 2014, on a PIL filed by the NGO ‘Common Cause’, which had sought a CBI probe into the alleged encroachments and misuse of defence land because of alleged involvement of certain DGDE and LMA-level officers.
The NGO had said the defence establishment was the biggest land holder in the country with 17.31 lakh acres in its kitty.
Of this, less than 2 lakh acres were within the 62 notified cantonment areas, while over 15 lakh acres fell outside cantonment boundaries, it had said.
( Source – PTI )