A video explainer on the 2001 Roshni Act enacted by Farooq Abdullah in Jammu and Kashmir
The Roshni Act was originally called the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership Rights to the Occupants) Act, 2001.
It was enacted in 2001 during the National Conference regime led by Farooq Abdullah in the State.
As per the Act, the ownership rights of State land would be transferred to its occupants on the payment of a fee fixed by the government.
The year 1990 was set as the cut-off date for encroachment on state land.
The Roshni Act was an ambitious project to meet Jammu and Kashmir’s chronic power crisis.
It was the govts calculation that regularising 20 lakh kanals of State land under occupation of locals would help it raise ₹25,000 crore.
The proceeds received would be used to set up hydroelectricity projects in the State to generate extra power.
What were the subsequent amendments made to the Roshni Act?
Ghulam Nabi Azad also effected a number of amendments to the Act when he was Chief Minister. The amendments extended the cut-off date from 1990 to 2004, which was later extended till 2007.
According to the fresh amendments, further relaxation was granted to occupants on the market prices fixed earlier in 2001.
Why is a two decades-old law under the scanner?
The Comptroller and Auditor General tabled a report before the Jammu and Kashmir assembly in 2014 and pointed out irregularities in implementing the Act.
A public interest litigation was filed by a Jammu-based activist S.K. Bhalla in 2011, alleging that politicians, bureaucrats and revenue officers were hand in glove in committing fraud under the Act.
In 2018, then governor Satya Pal Malik repealed the Act, saying it failed to meet its objectives.
In October 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court held the Roshni Act as ‘unconstitutional’.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had initially agreed to implement the High Court order. But it has now filed a review petition, saying “a large number of common people would suffer”.