Tree felling in Kandi belt: Punjab IFS officer doesn’t show up, NGT issues non-bailable warrant

Tribunal takes strong exception to officer’s non-appearance in hearing; govt distances itself from his orders, says he alone is responsible

punjab Updated: Feb 27, 2018 10:32 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Kandi belt tree felling,NGT,IFS
Harsh Kumar

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday issued non-bailable warrants against Punjab-cadre Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Harsh Kumar for failing to appear in a hearing after he was summoned last week for allowing felling of trees in the kandi (sub-mountainous) belt of Mohali district.

The tribunal had asked Kumar, who is posted as chief conservator forests (information technology) in the state government, to appear in person in New Delhi and explain the orders he issued for felling of trees.

Kumar has been summoned twice in the last four months.

This time, a petition was filed in the NGT for an action against Kumar who as the chief conservator (hills) in January issued orders to some of the landowners in the kandi belt 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 failed to appear in the tribunal and non-bailable warrant orders were issued against him,” said additional advocate general Kamaljit Singh, who is defending the state government in the NGT.

When contacted, Kumar said since his father was unwell, he had to take him to hospital.

“But no such information was conveyed to the tribunal,” said Kamaljit Singh. The order says the officer be made present on March 1.

Kumar on getting the summons for the second time had claimed that his orders were “misconstrued and wrongly interpreted” by the petitioners.

Govt distances from officer’s orders

In an affidavit filed in the NGT, the Punjab forest and wildlife department distanced itself from the orders issued by Harsh Kumar to the landowners allowing felling of trees.

Principal chief conservator of forests Jintendra Sharma said Kumar’s orders were in violation of the NGT directions and the department has cancelled them.

“If any officer by act of mission or commission commits contempt of the court, (NGT) it should be treated that the said officer alone is responsible for such an act because he acted on his own without any instruction from the authorities and hence the state government should not be held for the contempt,” he added.

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 in Mohali. The government rejected Khaira’s charge and extended the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) provisions for another 10 years and transferred Harsh Kumar.

The NGT, which came into existence in 2010 by an act of Parliament, takes up cases pertaining to environment.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 10:31 IST