Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Remove forest land encroachme­nts, land grabbers cannot take refuge of law: SC

- Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday directed Haryana and the Faridabad municipal corporatio­n to remove “all encroachme­nts”, consisting around 10,000 residentia­l constructi­on, in Aravali forest area near a village, saying “land grabbers cannot take refuge of rule of law” and talk of “fairness”.

A vacation bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari sought compliance report from state government officials after removing all encroachme­nts from forest land near Lakarpur Khori village in Faridabad district within six weeks. “In our opinion, the petitioner­s are bound by the directions given by the high court (of Punjab and Haryana) and reiterated by this court in order dated February 19, 2020 and again on April 5, 2021 in another proceeding­s pending before this court with regard to the same subject matter,” the bench said.

“Therefore, we reiterate our directions given to the corporatio­n as well to the state of Haryana as noted in the stated orders of this court and expect that the corporatio­n will take all essential measures to remove encroachme­nts on the subject forest land without any exception, not later than six weeks from today and submit a compliance report in that behalf, under the signature of the Chief Executive Officer of the corporatio­n,” the bench said in its order.

The top court passed the order after hearing a plea filed by five alleged encroacher­s against the demolition drive of the civic body.

The bench said relief claimed by petitioner­s in the plea “can be considered de-hors compliance of the directions given on earlier occasions by this court in orders dated February 19, 2020 and April 5, 2021 respective­ly”.

It said secretary of the state forest department shall also “cause to verify the factual situation regarding encroachme­nts on the subject forest land and submit independen­t compliance report under his signature”.

“After those certificat­es are submitted within six weeks as aforesaid, the court may consider of passing further directions including regarding due verificati­on of factual statement recorded in the certificat­es through an independen­t agency,” the bench said and made clear that state may consider the plea of rehabilita­tion independen­tly.

It said the state and local police shall give necessary logistical support to enable the corporatio­n to implement the directions given by court to “evict the occupants/encroacher­s including by forcible eviction from the subject forest land and to clear all the encroachme­nts therefrom.” It said Superinten­dent of

Police, Faridabad, shall be personally responsibl­e for ensuring adequate logistical support and police protection to the officials of corporatio­n. “We further make it clear that the Chief Executive Officer of the corporatio­n and the Secretary of the forest department shall be personally responsibl­e to oversee the implementa­tion of the directions given in this order and submit their compliance report(s) within six weeks,” it said and posted the matter for July 27.

During the hearing conducted via video-conferenci­ng, the bench took note of the submission that illegal dwellers have no place to go and the state be directed to rehabilita­te them before their eviction, saying the “land grabbers cannot take refuge in the rule of law” and talk of “fairness”. “Let the people be accommodat­ed as soon as they are evicted,” senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner­s, said.

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