First Additional District and Sessions Judge, Baramulla (with powers of Special Judge Anti-Corruption for Districts Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora) deferred the orders on framing of charges in the much publicised Gulmarg Land Scam for July 20, 2019.
The court on June 15, 2019 after finalisation of the arguments from both the sides had reserved this matter for July 6 for pronouncement of orders on framing of charges. The court had extensively heard a battery of lawyers representing the accused Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) former Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) former Deputy Commissioner Baramulla and presently Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and around 17 middle rung Revenue officials including more than eight top hoteliers of Kashmir Valley.
The battery of lawyers representing the accused had vehemently argued for the discharge of the accused and submitted that VOK (now Anti-Corruption Bureau) had wrongly booked the accused in this case and on the other hand the Public Prosecutor representing VOK justified the registration of FIR No.08/2009 and sought framing of charges against the high profile accused. He further submitted that the accused public servants entered into a criminal conspiracy with the high profile hoteliers/beneficiaries and deprived the State of valuable land running into crores of rupees. He further submitted that there was no question of grant of ownership rights to the beneficiaries/hoteliers when the land was outside the purview of the Roshini Act.
Gulmarg Land Scam came into limelight in 2009 when VOK registered FIR No.08/2009 against aforesaid officials and more than eight top hoteliers of Kashmir Valley for alleged grant of ownership of State Land duly transferred to Gulmarg Development Authority. Some of the accused sought the quashment of FIR in Srinagar Wing of the High Court and the State High Court had dismissed the aforesaid writ petition and gave green signal to the VOK to go ahead with the investigation. The VOK after completion of investigation sought the sanction for prosecution from the State Government but due to lackadaisical approach, the sanction was delayed.
At this stage two social activists of Jammu filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) No.9/2012 titled Sheikh Mohd. Shafi and another versus Union of India and others in the Jammu Wing of the High Court in which directions were sought to the State Government to accord sanction for prosecution in six high profile FIRs including FIR No.8/2009 (infamous Gulmarg Land Scam).
Division Bench of the State High Court headed by then Chief Justice M.M. Kumar (since retired) after expressing displeasure over the dilatory tactics of the State Government on August 28, 2012 had directed the SVO to produce the Challan against Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) who had retired by that time and other accused in the Court of Special Judge Anti-Corruption Kashmir within two weeks. The Division Bench also issued directions to the GAD to forward the papers of Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla for accord of prosecution sanction under Section 6 of Prevention of Corruption Act to the DoPT, Govt. of India as the said officer was in service at that time.
The SVO on the directions of the Division Bench produced Challan No.44/2013 under Section 5(2) Prevention of Corruption Act against the former Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Mehboob Iqbal (IAS) and 18 others in the court of Special Judge Anti-Corruption Srinagar on September 25, 2012 and the VOK also filed a supplementary Challan No.45/2013 against Baseer Ahmed Khan (IAS) on September 23, 2013, after the receipt of the prosecution sanction from DOPT, Govt. of India. The Special Judge Anti-Corruption Srinagar had transferred the case to the Court of 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Baramulla in view of conferment of powers under PC Act upon the aforesaid Court vide SRO 368 dated August, 19, 2013.
The Gulmarg Land Scam has a chequered history as the FIR No.8/2009 came to be registered by VOK in the year 2009 and lot of controversies entangled the case as the then Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Raman Bhalla had addressed a D.O. letter to the then Commissioner of Vigilance seeking closure of the case on the ground that the officers involved are innocent and have not indulged in criminal misconduct. The matter also landed in the State High Court which upheld the investigation and after conclusion of the investigation there was delay in the presentation of the Challan as the State Government was not granting the prosecution sanction against the accused. The Challan came to be presented only with the intervention of the Division Bench and on December 21, 2016, a Division Bench of the State High Court at Srinagar issued directions to the trial court at Baramulla to decide the case expeditiously. Not only this a Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Alok Aradhe (since transferred) and Justice Tashi Rabstan had also issued directions in PIL No.9/2012 titled Sheikh Mohd Shafi and another versus Union of India and others to the 1st Additional Sessions Judge Baramulla to take steps for completion of the trial expeditiously. The Division Bench while issuing such directions had also relied upon the orders passed by the State High Court in PIL No.14/2012 titled Mohammad Rafiq Zargar versus State and others.
Not only this Justice M.K. Hanjura (since retired) vide his Judgment dated October, 15, 2018 in a batch of petitions titled Mehboob Iqbal versus State of J&K and others issued directions to the 1st Additional Sessions Judge, Baramulla to hear arguments on charge and discharge taking into consideration the records produced before the Court by the Vigilance Organization, the report in the final form and accord due consideration to the written submissions and the oral arguments that may be filed and advanced by the counsel for the accused as also the State before passing any order.
First Additional Sessions Judge (with powers of Anti-Corruption Judge) Baramulla heard a battery of lawyers on the question of framing charges/discharge including Public Prosecutor for the State and the arguments were concluded on June, 15, 2019 and reserved the Judgment for July, 6, 2019.