A Panel appointed by the Bombay High Court to look into the construction of a housing project on forestland in Pune has recommended the state government conduct a special inquiry on forestland encroachments in and around the city.
The recommendation by the high court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has sent shockwaves among the high and mighty in the state’s political and government circles.
In the past few years, several residential projects as well as a couple of mega-campuses of educational institutions have come up on land originally owned by the forest department. The CEC wants a special inquiry team to examine the allotment of forestland for these projects.
Major General SCN Jathar (Retired), who on behalf of social organisation Nagrik Chetana Manch that filed a petition against the allotment of 11.89 hectares of forestland in Kondhwa prompting the high court to constitute the panel, said they would urge the high court to accept recommendations of the CEC during the next hearing.
The date of the next hearing is yet to be declared.
It was reported on Friday that the CEC had recommended officials responsible for the construction on the Kondhwa plot be booked for violation of forest laws.
Forest Minister Banabrao Pachpute said on Friday the government would implement the high court's directives on the CEC report.
He refused to comment on the CEC report, saying the matter was before the court.
Real estate prices had reached a high in Pune last year and there were instances of illegal construction on forestland on the outskirts for residential projects besides some prestigious educational institutions building campuses on forestland.
All of them may be in trouble if the violations are revealed in an inquiry.
Quite often the land is allotted for the purpose of agriculture but later used for construction.
The panel has pointed out that in case of such violations of the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the allotment should be cancelled and action taken against government officials responsible for it.