TREE-FELLING PROBE: NGT summons Punjab CS for non-compliance with its orderUpdated: Feb 11, 2020 22:07 IST
Says state ‘circumvented’ its order by appointing former secy (forests) to probe cutting of 24,777 trees along Bist Doab canal in 2018
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday summoned Punjab chief secretary (CS) Karan Avtar Singh on February 24 for failing to comply with its order issued in August 2018 pertaining to the probe into felling of 24,777 trees along the Bist Doab Canal.
In its 2018 order, the NGT had asked the state government to investigate into the felling of trees by an officer not below the rank of additional chief secretary and fix the accountability of officers responsible for violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and take strict action against them.
The tribunal brought on record that the chief secretary in September 2019 appointed MP Singh, additional chief secretary-cum-financial commissioner, department of taxation, as inquiry officer to probe the matter.
The report in the matter was to be submitted by the inquiry officer within two months. However, MP Singh failed to complete the inquiry and retired on December 31, 2019.
“The Chief Secretary, Punjab on January 23, 2020 appointed Vishwajeet Khanna, presently Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner to investigate the matter. It is noteworthy to mention that at the time of violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 because of cutting of trees along the Bist Doab Canal, Vishwajeet Khanna was the Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner, Forests,” said the NGT order.
It termed the move as an attempt to circumvent the order of the tribunal by appointing an officer (to investigate the matter), who was secretary of the forest department when trees were felled illegally.
“Prima facie, it’s failure by (the Punjab government) to comply with (NGT) orders. We direct the Chief Secretary, Punjab, to appear in person and explain,” said the tribunal.