Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Law tweak needed, SIT losing grip of land-grab cases

| JUNE 24, 2022, 11:32 PM IST

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) carried out its third arrest in connection with a land-grab case, this time a government employee.

An official of the Archaeological Survey of India is charged for his direct role in a land case, while it is disclosed that more names could come out after his questioning. However, while the SIT continues to go about its job of digging out land-grab cases and effecting arrests, it received a major setback as the court granted bail to one Vikrant Shetty who was arrested last Saturday from Gogol, Margao.

The first arrest of alleged land-grabbing had raised high hopes since SIT alleged that prima facie the accused was involved in a fraudulent transfer of around six properties to prospective buyers using forged documents. While the accused was initially remanded for five days of police custody, he managed to get bail on Friday, exposing the chinks in the government’s campaign against such cases. The hollowness of crack-down and its inability to stand the scrutiny of the law stood exposed.  

As pointed out earlier, establishing an SIT, strengthening it with manpower handpicked by the government, and merely going after suspected land fraudsters would not make much headway if the ecosystem to try such cases is not in place first.

The Vikrant Shetty case amplifies that the government did not consider it necessary to tighten the law via an appropriate amendment and set up a fast-track court before proceeding with the action. The unnecessary haste with which an SIT is working and netting accused, and the periodic announcements of tightening the noose, is only grabbing headlines. The CM is only collecting some brownie points vis-a-vis the TCP Minister Vishwajit Rane who is going hammer and tongs against land illegalities. The seriousness that was needed to handle such a grave issue of land-grabbing and land fraud is missing, and the way it is undertaken, haphazardly and hurriedly, only defeats its purpose.

What was seen as a big clean-up of land frauds, one that initially brought a sigh of relief to the many Goans who have been duped of their precious land, is now turning into a farce. Instead of getting experts to work with the SIT and dig deeper into the cases at hand, the government must first sit with its legal think-tank and give more teeth to the law that deals with land fraud. We reiterate that there has to be a well-defined template and a fast-track court to try land-grab cases so that justice is delivered within a time frame. Under the current set-up, the conviction rate is terribly low, and it would take years to bring the guilty to book.

By rushing into this exercise, the government is only giving a window of opportunity to the culprits to wriggle out. There has to be a rethink and certainly smarter handling of land-grab cases.

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