A panel appointed by the Bombay High Court has recommended action against government officials for allowing a housing project on reserved forest land in Pune.
A Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by the High Court in response to a petition filed by Pune-based Nagrik Chetana Manch also recommended that the allotment should be stopped and a special investigation team should be set up for a thorough probe into the case.
The organisation had challenged the revenue department’s permission to a developer to build a premium housing project, called Richie Rich, on an 11.89-hectare forestland, which had been originally allotted to a family in 1998 for agriculture.
In a report submitted by its member secretary M.K. Jiwrajka, the CEC has recommended that allotment be cancelled and the land should be restored back as forest.
The committee has recommended senior functionaries and officers of state who were responsible for the construction in violation of Forest Conservation Act, should be prosecuted.
The report says, “It is imperative that the then Revenue Minister, who approved the land allotment, Divisional Commissioner, Pune, who granted permission for the sale of said land in favour of private person, Deputy Conservator Forest, Pune, Ashok Khadse (currently under suspension) and developer be prosecuted as well.”
“The Kondhava forestland was allotted and multi-storied buildings were allowed to come for private gains with active connivance and support of senior government officials”, the report says adding that it was a fit case that requires exemplary punitive action.
Anirudhha Deshpande, developer of Richie Rich said he did not want to comment and also pointed out that he was no longer associated with the project.
Revenue Minister Patangrao Kadam said he was aware of the issue. He said, “I can tell that the government will take action as per the directions of the court.”