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PLPA row: Tribunal orders status quo, but Punjab govt firm on forest officer transfer

Was shifted after letter to developers on likely removal of construction ban came up amid row regarding land owned by CM.

punjab Updated: Feb 02, 2018 10:10 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PLPA row,Central Administrative Tribunal,Punjab Land Preservation Act
Harsh Kumar

Though the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Thursday ordered status quo in the transfer of 1985-batch Indian forest service (IFS) officer Harsh Kumar, the state forest and wildlife department will not let him join back. Reason: The department has already posted another IFS officer Saurabh Gupta in his place.

Kumar was transferred from the post of chief conservator of forests (CCF hills) on Tuesday on the directions of chief minister captain Amarinder Singh after he wrote to potential developers in the kandi belt of Mohali — referred as ecologically fragile zone — not to carry out constructions in the area till February 3, when a notification regarding construction ban was to expire.

However, the government has now renewed that notification under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) after allegations that removing the ban on constructions would benefit the CM, other politicians and bureaucrats, who own land in the eco-fragile belt.

Officials in the CM office said the government has decided to renew the notification covering 15 villages of Mohali district where the earlier notification would have lapsed next month, at the end of 15 years. There are over 30,000 acres in 502 villages in the kandi belt.

Alleging victimisation, Kumar, who approached CAT on January 31, said his “transfer was a case of communication gap. “However, I have not relinquished my charge,” said Kumar.

The IFS officer tried to defend himself saying that he had done no wrong by issuing letter as he asked developers to check other acts and notifications imposing ban on the construction activity in the belt.

Reacting to Kumar’s allegations, additional chief secretary (forest and wildlife) Satish Chandra said: “The officer prejudged government’s intentions, when the competent authority was still to take a final decision.”

“CAT has ordered status quo, meaning that same scenario at the time of pronouncing orders will continue,” said Chandra. He said the department can’t bring back Kumar on the CCF (hills) post as another IFS officer Saurabh Gupta took charge on the day when Kumar was transferred.

First Published: Feb 02, 2018 10:10 IST