The Special Environment Court, Faridabad has slapped a penalty of Rs. 17,700 on Haryana Minister of State Gopal Kanda for encroaching upon a protected forest strip and constructing a cemented driveway just outside his house, located on Laal Sadak in Civil Lines Colony.
The minister, who also owns a private airlines firm, deposited the amount after the same court issued non-bailable warrants against him for not appearing on hearing dates in the case.
Kothi No. 436/16 owned by Gopal Kanda, who holds the portfolio of home, sports and youth affairs and industries & commerce in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, was one of the 32 properties in the locality which were challaned by the forest department in May 2008 for violating the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 and the Indian Forest Act (IFA) 1927.
The house has a cemented driveway and a garden that has been fenced on a protected forest strip. Both activities are tantamount to violation of forest laws, a senior official from the forest department.
Kanda told Hindustan Times he was innocent and that although he had deposited the penalty amount, he had not received any summons related to the case against him.
“I did not have any idea of the summons from the Special Environment Court on the issue of the forest strip. May be these summons were handed over to workers engaged in the construction work at my house in 2008,” said Kanda.
“I did not know that Civil Lines is the only locality in Gurgaon that has a protected forest strip where constructing a cemented driveway is prohibited,” he added.
A forest official who did not want to be identified said, “Kanda probably remained unaware that his property faced trail in the Faridabad Court and did not appear for the hearing dates following which the court issued non-bailable warrants against him,” the forest official said.
In a related development, DK Sinha, Conservator of Forests, Gurgaon Range told HT, “The case related to violation of forest conservation by Gopal Kanda has been compounded after Kanda paid the compensation as well as the penalty.”
“We can say that after paying the dues including the court fee -- the case stands disposed off,” confirmed to HT on phone on Friday.