The Haryana forest department has issued orders to withdraw a case against a private developer in Gurgaon for constructing residential structures on protected forest land in DLF Phase 3 near NH-8.
The order, however, came as a surprise to Haryana government officials and lawyers. They got to know of it only on Wednesday when the developer’s lawyers submitted the order, issued by the forest department, in the special environment court in Faridabad.
The case was against Ambience developers for allegedly constructing structures, which are part of the condominiums in the residential area, on the Nathupur check dam. The 2.895-km-long check dam was marked as protected forest land and was out of bounds for construction.
Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) Sarabjit Singh Jattan issued the order on October 16, 13 days before his retirement on October 29. It directed the withdrawal of the case and also cancelled the damage report issued against Ambience in 2008. The order also contradicts the previous stand of the forest department on the issue. In 2012, the department had issued a notice to the developers asking them to demolish the illegal structures on the forest land.
Through its latest order, the forest department has surpassed the authority of the chief minister, legal experts said.
According to them, Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) mentions that a prosecution case filed in the court by a department of the state government can only be withdrawn by the authority of the chief minister. Additionally, sources said the order was issued without informing the environment minister or other senior officials.
“On analysis, it has been discovered that these khasra (index register to the map) numbers applied for are not mentioned in the report by the irrigation department submitted in 2002 as part of Nathupur bundh...damage report issued for violation of IFA is not tenable,” the order stated.
Unlike other government orders, this one explains the reason for withdrawal of the case. It refers to evidence provided by the developer’s lawyers as the reason behind the direction.
“...representing M/S Ambience Developers and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd personally submitted a document to prove that the area applied for was not a forest land... district forest officer (DFO) is directed to withdraw the prosecution case...the case is hereby cancelled as withdrawn since no forest land is involved,” it stated.
Sources said none of the field officials from Gurgaon, who have worked on the case, were consulted before the order was issued.
Meanwhile, sources said the forest department might soon withdraw the order and begin an inquiry into how it came to be. “We would not like to comment on the issue as the matter is sub judice,” Raj Singh Gehlot, chairman and managing director of Ambience Group, said.
The Gurgaon divisional forest officer was unavailable for comment. “I am not aware of the details of the case as I have taken charge only recently,” said Dr Amarinder Kaur, PCCF of Haryana.