The Himachal Pradesh high court on Friday directed the state government to file a detailed report about encroachments on forest land by apple orchardists.
A division bench comprising chief justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed the order taking suo moto cognizance of a petition.
Listing the matter for June 23, the court directed the state to file a detailed report regarding the steps taken to vacate the encroached land.
The court also asked the government whether encroachers had been brought to book and the demarcation process started, and details of its likely completion.
It also demanded a reply on whether government officials were hand in glove with the encroachers and if any departmental probe had been ordered against such employees. The government was asked to file the status report within two weeks.
The court also appointed Lalit K Sharma as amicus curiae in this matter to assist the court.
Earlier, the state government had submitted its reply admitting that encroachments had been made.
"There is nothing in the report as to what steps the respondents have taken to remove the encroachments and how many criminal cases have been registered against such encroachers and whether any demarcation has been made," the bench observed.
In the letter, the petitioner had alleged that about 40 residents of Chaithala, Nagpuri Chaithala, Karewag Chaithala and Sevag Chaitala villages had set up apple orchards on about 500 bighas of government land.