NGT summons IFS officer for issuing tree-felling orders in Kandi belt of Mohali
The NGT has ordered a blanket ban on tree felling in the area.punjab Updated: Feb 24, 2018 09:00 IST
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has summoned an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer posted in Punjab to New Delhi on February 26 to explain the orders he issued for felling of trees in the kandi (sub-mountainous) belt of Mohali district.
The officer, Harsh Kumar, who is posted as chief conservator forests (information technology) in the Punjab government, has been summoned for the second time in the last four months.
This time, a petition was filed in the tribunal for an action against Kumar who as the chief conservator (hills) in January issued orders to some of the landowners in the kandi belt of Mohali district allowing them to cut trees in the area after February. The NGT has ordered a blanket ban on tree felling in the area.
The officer claimed that his orders were “misconstrued and wrongly interpreted” by the petitioners.
In the previous case taken up by the tribunal against Kumar in November last year, he got off the hook by seeking an unconditional apology. He was summoned for allowing felling of trees in the kandi belt on the grounds that the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) provisions were not applicable. The NGT had closed the previous case on the basis of his apology.
This time, he issued the order on the ground that the PLPA provisions will expire and will no longer be applicable while referring to a Punjab and Haryana High court judgment.
“I also wrote in my orders that in case there is any other act applicable in the area, it be implemented. But the petitioners who approached the NGT read only a portion of my order which mentions the felling of trees,” said Harsh Kumar.
The orders led to a furore earlier this month when leader of opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Sukhpal Singh Khaira levelled charges of giving benefit to Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh who also owns land in the kandi belt.
The government rejected Khaira’s charge and extended the PLPA provisions for another 10 years and transferred Harsh Kumar.
A senior forest and wildlife department official said Kumar cannot prejudge the government’s decision by claiming that the PLPA provision will expire after February. Kumar said he would seek a CBI an inquiry into the matter as he had done no wrong. The NGT, which came into existence in 2010 by an act of Parliament, takes up cases pertaining to environment.
First Published: Feb 24, 2018 09:00 IST