Forest land issue: State govt violating Supreme Court order?

  • Vaishnavi Vasudevan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 07, 2015 00:48 IST

While the state government has said it will only regularise housing societies that had petitioned against their properties being labelled encroachments on private forest land, the Supreme Court in its order last year had gone beyond just the petitioners, legal experts have argued.

In its judgment given in January 2014, the Apex Court had sympathised with all those who had been issued showcause notices by the state government. It had called them “victims of the culpable failure of the state” and said there was no reason it should not come to the aid of these victims.

Lawyers have argued that the order in no way restricts relief to just 18 petitioners, but extends it to all such private forest land and the encroachers marked on it. HT on Monday had reported that the state government had issued orders saying only housing societies which had petitioned would be regularised. The rest have been denied regularisation.

Advocate Girija Balakrishnan, linked with the case on behalf of NGO HIRWA, told HT, “As per the Supreme Court order, it is understood that the quashing of the state government’s decision concerned lakhs of residents listed as encroachers on private forest land, irrespective of whether they were petitioners or not. The court had said the government can initiate action only if broader guidelines like occupation certificate and approved plans of buildings are not met.”

However, Mumbai surburban collector Shekhar Channe said, “I am following the state government’s order. It has stated that societies that come under the petitioners must be considered for regularisation.”

In its order, the Supreme Court had said, “There is no reason why these citizens should be the only victims of such a fate and the state not be held responsible for this state of affairs; nor is there any reason why this Court should not come to the aid of victims of the culpable failure of the state to implement and enforce the law for several decades.”

“For months we have been trying to get our buildings off the list as per SC order, but the authorities have been rejecting our request. They told us all buildings will be taken up collectively and not as individual cases. There have been unnecessary delays,” said G Shiva, resident of Thakur Complex, Borivli, where more than 15 buildings have been marked encroachments.

"Following the SC order, we have started the process of regularisation of the societies of the 18 petitioners. For the rest of the societies, the guidelines of the state government will be followed," said KP Singh, chief conservator of forest, Thane.

An officer from the revenue department said local forest officials have submitted the proposal for the regularisation of the rest of the societies. “After legal opinion from the law and judiciary department, the revenue department will issue guidelines for their regularisation,” he said.

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