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Judiciary

Land Scams affecting socio economic progress: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

By Harshvardhan Sharma      08 July, 2023 11:41 PM      0 Comments
Land Scams affecting socio economic progress: Supreme Court [Read Judgment]

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has said land scams in India have been a persistent issue, which not only resulted into financial losses for individuals and investors but also disrupted development projects, eroded public trust, and hindered socio-economic progress.

The top court said in such cases where the victims of a crime, on account of their old age and geographical distance, are unable to secure justice on their own, it falls upon courts and the state to carry out their solemn duty to ward off injustice.

"Scammers often create fake land titles, forge sale deeds, or manipulate land records to show false ownership or an  encumbrance-free status. Organised criminal networks often plan and execute these intricate scams, exploiting vulnerable individuals and communities, and resorting to intimidation or threats to force them to vacate their properties," a bench of Justices Surya Kant and C T Ravikumar said.

These land scams not only result financial losses for individuals and   investors but also disrupt development projects, erode public trust, and hinder socio-economic progress, the bench added.

The apex court made these observations while setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court's May 31, 2022 order, which granted pre-arrest bail to a man. It was alleged that the man executed a sale deed for a land worth over Rs 50 crore in Gurugram for a paltry sum of over Rs 6.6 crore on the basis of alleged forged and fabricated general power of attorney (GPA).

Acting on an appeal by NRI couple Pratibha Manchanda and her husband, the (GPA), the bench said, the accused, prima facie, in the matter appear to be acting in concert with each other and might be hands in glove, with the ulterior motive of duping the absentee land owners and this angle requires thorough consideration by the investigating authorities.

The bench noted that the appellants, an elderly couple who spend majority of their time abroad, have seemingly fallen prey to a well¬-orchestrated conspiracy hatched to rob them of their highly valuable property.

"In such cases where the victims of a crime, on account of their old age and geographical distance, are unable to secure justice on their own, it falls upon Courts and the State to carry out their solemn duty to ward off injustice and restore the faith of one and all in the rule of law," the bench said.

The court ordered the Commissioner of Police, Gurugram to set up a Special Investigation Team to complete its investigation into the FIR lodged on March 16, 2022 with police station Badshahpur within two months.

It allowed the police to subject the accused respondent, Subhash Chand, the vendee, the Sub Registrar or officials, or other suspects to custodial interrogation to arrive at a definite conclusion, strictly in accordance with law.

"We believe it is necessary to foil any trace of organised crime perpetrated by land mafia, through an unimpaired and unobstructed investigation," the bench said.

"In case the vendees, the officers/officials of the Registering Authority have secured anticipatory bail from Sessions Court/High Court, the SIT shall be at liberty to seek suitable modifications to such orders so that no impediment is caused in carrying out a fair and free investigation," the bench ordered.

The appellants said they are senior citizens who were owners and had possession over the land bearing, measuring 15 Kanal 2 Marla, situated within the revenue estate of Village Begampur Khatola, Tehsil Kadipur, District Gurugram for over a period of 30 years. They claimed  that they never sold the subject land to anyone nor have they ever executed any power of attorney in favor of any third party.

They said the current market value of the appellants' land, was not less than Rs 50 crores. However, in the 2022 Sale Deed, the sale consideration was shown as an abjectly low and meager amount of Rs 6,60,62,500, which was significantly below its actual asking price. Moreover, the appellants had not received even this miniscule amount even if the 2022 Sale Deed was hypothetically considered to be valid, the court noted.

[Read Judgment] 



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