JK News Today
Jammu, September 15:
Kanta Andotra, wife of former minister and founder of Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan, Ch Lal Singh, and chairperson of R.B Education Trust, was among half a dozen people booked by Central Bureau of Investigation* on Tuesday on charges of making a false declaration to possess land in excess of the ceiling fixed on the agricultural land by Jammu and Kashmir Government.
The other people, against whom CBI has also registered an FIR include the then Kathua Deputy Commissioner Ajay Singh Jamwal, then Tehsildar Marheen, Avtar Singh, Naib Tehsildar Dheeraj Kumar, Girdwar Ram Pal and Patwari Sudesh Kumar
Official sources said the CBI was, at present, conducting searches at nine places belonging to R B Education Trust, besides residences of Kanta Andotra and other accused as they caused loss to the state exchequer by helping the Trust possess land excess to the prescribe ceiling on the basis of false declaration.
On June 25 this year, CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry to look into the allegations of land grabbing and corruption by an educational trust being run former minister’s family. In the PE, it had been alleged that the revenue officials in order to enable Education Trust purchase Agricultural land for non-agriculture purposes, had issued false certificates that it fell in the exempted category under JK Agrarian Reforms Act. The Trust was accused of possessing huge tracts of land in gross violation of ceiling prescribed under Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976
In 2015, a retired Professor Bhalla in a public interest litigation in the high court had alleged that RB Educational Trust, Kathua, which was being run by Lal Singh, was in possession of 316 Kamal’s and 17 marlas of land at village Karandi Khurd in Kathua district’s Hiranagar tehsil. The petitioner has sought directions to the state for retrieving land from the Trust which was in excess to ceiling prescribed under section 2(1) read with section 14 of J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976.
In this connection, he had drawn the attention of the court towards a DO letter dated April 24, 2006 written by the. vigilance Commissioner Dr Ashok Bhan to the then Chief Minister pointing out that Choudhary Lal Singh was in possession of 324 Kanals of land in village Karandi Khurd, tehsil Hiranagar district Kathua where he is constructing a farm house. However, under the provisions of the Agrarian Reforms Act, a person can claim possession to the extent of land measuring twelve and a half standard acres which is approximately 100 Kanals.
Choudhary Lal Singh had quit BJP after he along with another party minister Chander Prakash Ganga were made to resign from the then Mehbooba Mufti led coalition cabinet in the wake of a controversy over their publicly supporting the demand of CBI enquiry by the family members and relatives of the accused arrested by police on charges of gang rape and murder of an eight-year-Bakarwal girl in the forests of Kathua district’s Rasana village in 2018. Following nation wide outrage over the incident and apprehension over the fairness of trial in view of threat to prosecution witnesses, Supreme Court had shifted trial of the case to Sessions Court at Pathankote.
In June 2019, Court convicted six of the seven accused and acquitted one. Of those convicted, three were awarded life imprisonment and the other three five year jail term.
During 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Choudhary Lal Singh contested the elections as nominee of the newly floated Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan in Udhampur-Kathua parliamentary constituency and lost the security deposit.