The Himachal Pradesh high court on Wednesday reserved its judgment in the matter of raising apple orchards by encroaching upon government land in Shimla district.
A division bench comprising chief justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan was reviewing a petition taken up by the court as a public interest litigation (PIL) on a letter written to the chief justice by a resident of Chaithala village in Kotkhai.
Earlier on May 25, the court had issued notices to the state chief secretary, principal revenue secretary, principal forest secretary, director general of police, principal chief conservator of forests, Shimla deputy commissioner and superintendent of police, Theog SDM, Theog district forest officer, horticulture department director and principal irrigation and public health secretary.
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.
"They have felled deodar trees on the land. Some of them even took financial assistance from the government for constructing apple grading and packing house and water storage tanks. The government also provided the encroachers electricity and water connections," the petitioner alleged.
On April 9, the high court had passed an order to evict all encroachments on government forest land within six months. Amicus curiae JL Bhardwaj had also highlighted that the authorities were not showing any signs of being serious in preventing encroachers, as a result of which not only were trees being axed but construction of temporary structures and apple cultivation had commenced.
The court had said it was evident from the status report that there had been rampant encroachments over forest land. The authorities filed 9,612 cases of encroachment over less than 10 bighas of encroached forest land up to September 30, 2014.