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Corbett Tiger Reserve: Fix damages to be paid by hotel owners: HC

The HC has also ruled that the cost of demolition of the unauthorised structures should also be charged from hotel and resort owners.

dehradun Updated: Jun 29, 2018 22:41 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
Uttarakhand news
The directions were given by the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh(HT PHOTO)

The Uttarakhand high court has asked the authorities concerned to fix the compensation/damages to be paid by hotel and resort owners for encroachments and unauthorised constructions around Corbett Tiger Reserve in Nainital and Almora districts on revenue and forest land by taking into consideration the tariff charged by them from the date of such constructions till date according to their income tax returns.

The HC has also ruled that the cost of demolition of the unauthorised structures should also be charged from hotel and resort owners. These directions were issued to the district magistrates of Nainital and Almora.

The directions were given by the division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Mayank Mainali, chairperson of a Ramnagar-based NGO, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vika Sanstha in 2012. The petitioner had highlighted the environmental concerns in the wake of construction by hotels, resorts and other properties around the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

The directions were given by the high court while hearing the matter on June 18, June 19 and June 20, but copies of the respective orders were made available on Friday.

During the hearings, a significant number of resort and hotel owners were not able to present sale deeds or other related documents related to possession of land. Responding to such matters, the court directed the state government to remove the encroachments within 14 days. Counsels of some resort and hotel owners also apprised the court that the encroached land had been surrendered and encroachments removed. Many resorts and hotel owners sought more time for submitting the sale/title deeds to the court.

The court also noted that there was variance in the report of the empowered committee constituted by the court and reports earlier filed by the district magistrate of Nainital, assistant engineer irrigation department and divisional forest officer Ramnagar.

In its June 19 order, the court has directed the principal conservator of forests to register cases against those who have encroached upon forest land within three months under relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and Indian Forest Act, 1927. The court also directed the PCCF to file eviction cases against persons who have encroached upon the forest land within four weeks.

In its June 20 order, the high court said the matter be listed for hearing after three weeks. On June 14, the HC had constituted a four-member empowered committee to check and verify the encroachments around Corbett Tiger Reserve. The committee submitted its report on June 18, listing the encroachments around Corbett.

On June 1 this year, chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh in his affidavit, submitted before the HC, said that 44 resort owners around Corbett Tiger Reserve had encroached upon revenue and forest land in Nainital and Almora districts. Of the 44 resorts, 30 had encroached upon revenue land while 14 had encroached upon forest land, including the catchment of Kosi river.

Surendra Pal Singh, general secretary of the Corbett hotels and resorts association said the authorities should first officially establish the extent of the Kosi river, which will make it clear to what extent encroachments have been made. “Also, we will examine the court orders and then decide whether to approach the Supreme Court,” he said.

Neha Verma, divisional forest officer (DFO) Ramnagar said the survey by a joint team of revenue and forest officials regarding the exact extent of the encroachments by the hotel and resort owners is still going on. Verma said till Friday morning, they had not received the copy of the court orders on Corbett. “Also, five cases of encroachments by hotel and resort owners are being heard in my court. I have given them time till July 6 to produce documents related to the possession of land.”

Corbett National Park, located in Nainital district, is one of the oldest national parks in India and it has played a key role in Project Tiger initiation. This protected Himalayan habitat houses rich biodiversity including around 110 tree species, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species, 33 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians and so on.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 22:41 IST