SIT gets more men, but it still makes very little sense

THE GOAN NETWORK | JUNE 21, 2022, 08:31 PM IST

It came as spontaneous relief when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant added manpower to the skeletal Special Investigative Team (SIT) announced last week to probe all land-grab cases in the State, drastically taking up the strength of the team. If there is a genuine effort in digging up land-grab cases, the SIT could stumble upon a lot of skeletons since land dealings run deep in the State with real estate brokers, land dealers, agents, businessmen, highly influential people, and above all politicians, some of whom are in power, engaging in transactions worth thousands of crores. Three elements are crucial in this mission: an unflinching intent, unhindered investigation and a strong resolve to take cases to their logical conclusion.

The Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) heads a team that includes from the police force one DySP, three PIs, five PSIs, two ASIs, two Head Constables and 10 Police Constables, besides one Deputy Collector (South Goa) and a representative each from the Department of Archaeology and the State Registrar. When reality dawned on the chief minister that something is wrong with some land transactions, one expected him to put a robust and holistic plan in place, not a haphazard and a hurried one. While as an afterthought adding manpower may sound right, and there might be further additions as the situation demands, the neutrality of probing cases is missing because policemen are notorious for their connections with the land lobby and agents. Given that background, the purpose of this mission will be defeated if there is any attempt made to shield names.

In such a high-profile case that could net the who's who of Goa and even some from outside the State, the SIT needed leaders and frontline officers who have no alignments. Ideally, the government should have appointed IPS and IAS officers to the team along with other high-ranking officers chosen based on their track record and credentials.

Secondly, merely forming an SIT is not going to help. If the government is serious about taking land grab cases to their logical conclusion, Sawant should have also announced a fast-track civil court to hear such cases. This is not about levelling charges and effecting arrests alone. Cases have to be settled in courts within a time frame and which is why without a special court, this exercise would make very little sense. Add to this the background that the conviction rate is very low in land cases.

Lastly and most importantly, the government has spoken about bringing land grabbers to book but has remained completely silent on the matter of restoring the land to rightful landlords. Again, the role of a fast-track court becomes important here. While the guilty will be punished, those who have been cheated and are seeking their land back could seek speedy justice via a special court instead of labouriously waiting to take possession of what is rightfully theirs.

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