A stringent law to curb land-grabbing with a provision of up to 14 years in jail and timely resolution of such cases has come into force in Gujarat today, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced.
The Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 2020, to which state governor gave assent on October 8, lays down stringent punishment for land grabbers with an aim to protect the interests of small farmers and citizens, Mr Rupani told reporters in Gandhinagar.
“Committees and special courts have been formed in each district for the purpose, and the law comes into force from today,” he said.
Land-grabbing in any form shall be prohibited and declared unlawful and any such activity will be an offence punishable under the new Act.
The government will enforce the law strictly and ensure the accused persons are punished, the Chief Minister said.
As per the Act, a land grabber is a person who directly or indirectly takes illegal possession of lands and constructs unauthorised structures, or who collects or attempts to collect from any occupiers of such lands rent, compensation and other charges by criminal intimidation.
Those found guilty of any of these crimes will be liable for 10 to 14 years of imprisonment and penalty equivalent to the jantri (government) rate of the land in question, says the Act.
Such an offence by a company is also covered under the new law.
“The Gujarat government is committed to protect the interests of small farmers and citizens who fall victim to land grabbers and are forced to fight long battles in civil courts and thereafter, enter into compromises with them against their will,” Mr Rupani said.
He said as per the Act, a land grab complaint made by a victim with relevant documents will be taken up by a seven- member committee formed under collectors of respective districts once every 15 days.
“The committee will ensure if the complaint is genuine or not. If it is genuine, the matter will be handed over to the police, who will lodge an FIR within a week,” he said.
Special courts constituted in each district under the Act will resolve the land grabbing cases within six months (from date of filing of the case before it), he said.
Mr Rupani further said the special courts may also take action against those grabbing government land, either suo motu (on its own) or on the basis of applications made by government officers authorised by the district collector.
The Act provides for the constitution of special courts in every district and appointment of a public prosecutor for each court.
It also makes provision for the burden of proof on the person who is alleged to have grabbed the land.
Police officers not below the rank of a DySP or ACP shall carry out investigation in the case.
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