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Punjab CM’s plan for new medical college runs into controversy over land transfer

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s plan to set up a new Government Medical College in Mastuana Sahib in Sangrur district has run into controversy over the transfer of land for his pet project.

The 17 acres of land on which the medical college is to come up has been shown as a gift to the government from Baba Darshan Singh, the sewadar of Gurdwara Sachkhand Angitha Sahib in the Mastuana Sahib Complex. However, the records show that he does not hold ownership rights of the 17 acres.

The land has now been registered in the name of a Government-run society that proposes to set up the Sant Attar Singh Institute of Medical Education Science and Technology with an investment of Rs 450 crore.

However, the ownership of the land as per the records is in the name of Sant Attar Singh Trust, Mastuana Sahib headed by ex-MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. This trust controls over 250 acres of land belonging to the four Gurdwaras situated alongside each other and continues to hold possession of the entire land by virtue of a 1987 stay order passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

This stay order germinated from the Punjab government’s notification of 1964 that ordered the transfer of the Gurdwaras in the complex to the SGPC. The Mastuana Sahib Trust challenged the notification.

Baba Darshan Singh, who claims to be the president of an independent society controlling Angitha Sahib Gurdwara, said that by virtue of his being president, he had every right to give the land for the proposed medical college.

He said he did not know of any litigation in the High Court and the stay order in force since 1987, as the society he headed never received any summons to appear in the court. “I acted in the interest of the people of Sangrur as the region badly needed a medical college and a hospital,” he added.

Jaswant Singh Khaira, secretary of the Mastuana Sahib Trust, said that Darshan Singh, who served as a driver with the Trust, had no legal sanctity to call himself a custodian of Angitha Sahib Gurdwara. He was not appointed as per tradition by the Trust management. Since 1946 all sewadars of all the four Gurdwaras had been appointed by the Trust. But Darshan Singh was a self-appointed sewadar, Khaira added.

Deputy Commissioner Jatindera Jorwal, when contacted, said that the title of the land gifted to the medical college was clear. It was in the name of Angitha Sahib Gurdwara.

When asked whether Baba Darshan Singh is the proprietor of the land and the Gurdwara Angitha Sahib, the DC said, “it is better, if you ask this from Darshan Singh.”

To ascertain how a person who is not an owner of the land could get it registered in the name of the proposed medical college, Indianarrative.com contacted the then-tehsildar Sukhbir Singh Brar. The tehsildar said, “the matter was in the notice of top echelons in the government. Everything done was at their behest. You can ask the DC how the land transfer deed was registered.”

Interestingly, as CM Mann is issuing statements against the SGPC and Shiromani Akali Dal for creating hindrances in the setting up of the medical college and hospital, three separate petitions have been filed in the High Court. The petitioners are seeking registration of a fraud case against Darshan Singh, who according to the records, is not an owner of the land transferred to the medical college.

The SGPC and the Mastuana Sahib Trust – two parties involved in litigation over control of the Mastuana Gurdwaras – have offered the Mann government to sit with them and arrive at a mutual understanding after which they can request the High Court to exempt the said land from the purview of the litigation. The land can then be handed over to the medical college.

Meanwhile, acting on an application moved by the Trust, the High Court has issued a fresh stay order on all the properties of the Mastuana Sahib Trust, implying that the college could not be built over the land gifted by Baba Darshan Singh till the pendency of the case.