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Supreme Court seeks report over Aravalli encroachments

The court has scheduled a hearing in this regard on September 27 and directed the commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) to present a chart of illegal properties.
The court will also hear a clutch of petitions against the alternative housing scheme of the Haryana government for people evicted from Khori Gaon, an unauthorised settlement that encroached on 150 acres of the Aravalli forest.
Published on Sep 21, 2021 01:22 AM IST
By Abraham Thomas, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday said that unauthorised properties on forest land cannot be granted any protection, as it sought a report from the municipal body of Faridabad, within a week, on illegal structures located in the Aravalli forest and reasons for not demolishing them.

The court has scheduled a hearing in this regard on September 27 and directed the commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) to present a chart of illegal properties. The court will also hear a clutch of petitions against the alternative housing scheme of the Haryana government for people evicted from Khori Gaon, an unauthorised settlement that encroached on 150 acres of the Aravalli forest.

A bench of justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said, “We direct the commissioner, MCF, to submit an area-wise chart disclosing the structures standing on forest land not demolished, along with justification for not demolishing the unauthorised structure, by the next date of hearing.”

Senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj, appearing for the MCF, informed the court that its orders will be complied with. The MCF has, so far, identified 140 illegal structures, including farmhouses, of which only 10 have been demolished.

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Owners of farmhouses and banquet halls in Faridabad, who were issued show cause notices for demolition by MCF, also approached the top court with petitions against the MCF’s actions. The bench agreed to deal with these petitions on October 4. The owners were served notices under Section 4 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900.

The owners sought protection till then as their representations had been dismissed by a common order passed by the deputy conservator of forests, Faridabad, last week. The bench remarked, “We cannot protect you. We will not interfere if you are an unauthorised structure or situated on forest land. On both criteria, the corporation must proceed against such structures.”

Senior advocate PS Patwalia, appearing for a few owners of the affected structures, said that in 2019, the state government amended the PLPA, by which the land on which these structures were raised have been exempted from the applicability of Section 4 of PLPA. But this amendment has not been put into effect due to a March 1, 2019 order of the Supreme Court in the MC Mehta case, which states, “State government not to act without permission of the court under the Amendment Act.”

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