More than a week after the state government announced its decision to withdraw the review petition it had filed against the Supreme Court’s January order in the forest land issue, the procedure to withdraw it is yet to be initiated.
This means that in spite of the relief projected by the ruling party’s politicians, who put out a public statement and issued a press release, around five lakh residents staying in the Bhandup-Mulund-Thane and the Goregaon-Borivli belts continue to be stranded.
This undue delay has angered residents, who are now contemplating measures such as the boycott of the election or mass voting against the ruling alliance candidates.
The Supreme Court, in its order in January, had dismissed the high court’s 2008 order, which called residents ‘encroachers’, declaring around five lakh homes in the region illegal. However, in June, the state government had filed a review petition against the Supreme Court order stating that the order would further deplete the green zone. Then, with the upcoming Assembly election in mind, it made public its decision to withdraw the petition a week ago. This, however, is yet to be done.
Before the code of conduct was set in motion on September 12, the ruling Congress government had also put up banners across Mulund claiming credit for the decision to withdraw the review plea.
“The government should not have, in the first place, filed a review petition. We have suffered for nine years. Also, even though the review petition has been filed, there has been no stay given to carrying out further procedures to correct the record of rights,” said Ramesh Aggarwal, 61, a resident of Model Town, Mulund, which is under dispute.
Locals have demanded an immediate removal of the forest tag from the 7/12 extract of the land record, which is a document pertaining to land ownership and use.
“This decision of merely announcing the withdrawal of the review petition is a publicity gimmick. Immediate instructions should be given to the revenue department to remove the reference of ‘forests’ from the record. This has been directed by the Supreme Court. Residents will, otherwise, use the ballot as the weapon to retaliate against the government,” said Prakash Padikkal, president of Hillside Residents’ Welfare Association.
Padikkal added he had also written to the collector and the chief minister demanding implementation of the Supreme Court order.
An official from the state revenue and forests department, however, said, “After the additional solicitor general’s opinion was given (which said the review suit had no legal ground) a week ago, we had sent our remarks to the law and judiciary department. Now, it is up to them to withdraw the petition.