Land-grab charge: Mehbooba slaps legal notice on former J&K governor

The PDP leader sought damages amounting to Rs 10 crore from Satya Pal Malik

Satya Pal Malik said Mehbooba Mufti was one of the beneficiaries of the now-dumped Roshni Act, pertaining to state land occupancy. Pic: PTI

Satya Pal Malik, currently serving as Governor of Meghalaya, is no stranger to controversies, but his latest sensational remarks about Jammu and Kashmir’s political leadership could land him in a legal battle for the first time.

Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of J&K and President of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), sent a legal notice to Malik on Friday (October 22), seeking Rs 10-crore compensation for levelling land grab charge against her.

Malik, who previously served as Governor of J&K and oversaw withdrawal of the region’s semi-autonomy and statehood on August 5, 2019, recently made contentious remarks at a press conference.

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Malik said Mehbooba Mufti was one of the beneficiaries of the now-dumped Roshni Act, pertaining to state land occupancy.

“Although no amount of money can compensate my client for the loss of reputation and good name which loss has been caused by your aforesaid conduct, yet my client has decided to sue you for claiming compensation/ damages for loss of reputation and good name earned by her and for establishing that the allegations levelled (by) you are incorrect and false and have been levelled at a juncture which hints at a political collusion behind the speech made by you,” reads the legal notice sent by Mehbooba to Malik through her lawyer, Anil Sethi.

“A video has been circulated in Media where you (Satya Pal Malik), while being escorted by the official staff of Raj Bhawan of Meghalaya, are shown holding a press conference. While recounting your days as Governor in erstwhile state of J&K, at 0.23 seconds of the said video clip, you have alleged that my client took benefit of the State Land under the J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 is popularly known as the Roshni Act and that on verification, you found the above allegations to be correct,” the notice reads.

Mehbooba said that Malik seems to ‘suffer from his Kashmir hangover’.

“He (Malik) can’t get over the fact that the Government of India, after using him in an illegal and unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370, shunted him out,” Mehbooba told The Federal.

In a hyperbolic manner, Malik claimed in a purported video statement that during his term as Governor in Jammu and Kashmir, he was informed he would get a whopping amount, Rs 300-crore bribe, if he cleared the deals of “Ambani” and a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) officer.

“Immediately after I was posted to Jammu and Kashmir (as Governor), two files came to me,” Malik can be heard saying in a video statement. The video clip is being widely shared on social media platforms.

“In one, Ambani was involved, and in the other was an influential officer of the Sangh (RSS). I was told that there was a scam involved,” Malik said, adding he cancelled both the deals.

“The secretaries told me you can get Rs 150 crore each for clearing the files,” Malik said in the video statement. Critics are asking if Malik’s allegations are really true and what action he took against the secretaries he is alluding to.

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“Satya Pal Malik keeps levelling all kinds of baseless and obnoxious charges against one and all. He needs to be held accountable for making false allegations,” Mehbooba told The Federal.

Former cabinet minister and senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar dared Satya Pal Malik to probe ‘corruption’ in relation to the Reliance Health Insurance Scheme, which according to the then Governor of J&K, was full of frauds. “Is it sufficient just to roll back something which is admittedly full of frauds? Should nobody be held responsible,” Akhtar had asked.

Satya Pal Malik was appointed Jammu and Kashmir Governor on August 21, 2018. After J&K lost its statehood and special status in August, 2019, he was first transferred to Goa in October 2019. Presently, he is posted as Governor of Meghalaya. Whether in Goa or in Meghalaya, he continues to talk about Kashmir in a nostalgic manner.