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Aravallis: NGT directs Haryana, Rajasthan to depute competent officer to remove illegal encroachments, constructions

During the hearing, it was stated that in identified forest areas,steps were being taken for restoration by removing the encroachments. The Tribunal directed that remedial action be taken promptly and further status report as on 31.01.2021 be filed.

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The National Green Tribunal Principal Bench directed the Chief Secretary, Haryana to depute a competent officer for removing illegal encroachments and illegal constructions in the Aravalli Hills.

The Chief Secretary, Rajasthan has also been directed to nominate the officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to monitor compliance and file an affidavit within three months before the Tribunal. The court was hearing a petition regarding illegal construction in ‘gair mumkin pahar’ of Aravalli Hills in three Haryana districts — Faridabad, Nuh and Gurgaon — and Alwar in Rajasthan.

The state of Haryana, as well as Rajasthan, in their next affidavits, may give the details of proceedings pending in the Supreme Court having bearing on the present proceedings and specifically mention whether there is any bar for this Tribunal to proceed further in the matter, the bench said.

The issue for consideration relates to remedial action against illegal constructions raised in violation of the Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) dated 07.05.1992 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 prohibiting specified activities such as construction in the area.

The areas covered by the Notification include those mentioned as “Gair Mumkin Pahar” (hillocks) or ‘forest’ in the land revenue records maintained by the State,

The tribunal initiated the proceeding taking Suo Motu based on News Item in Times of India titled “How private players grabbed forest land in the Aravalis” on 07.01.2013.

Vide order dated 23.10.2018, the Tribunal reviewed the proceedings for more than five years preceding the said order and held that construction raised on forest land are illegal.

The applicant Sonya Ghosh was added through a miscellaneous application in 2013. The Tribunal directed constitution of a joint Committee to identify such forest land on which the construction was illegal.

On 26.08.2020, the report of the Forest Department, Haryana dated 18.06.2020 was considered and show cause notice for illegal constructions was issued against 195 persons in Gurugram District.

During the hearing, it was stated that in identified forest areas,steps were being taken for restoration by removing the encroachments. The Tribunal directed that remedial action be taken promptly and further status report as on 31.01.2021 be filed.

We find that action taken is not adequate nor information furnished is complete. It is not clear whether the illegal constructions have been demolished, which step is important in addition to initiating prosecution and issuing show cause notices, the Tribunal said.

The learned Counsel for the State submits that Writ Petition is pending before the Supreme Court on overlapping issues. It is stated that the said Writ Petition involves challenge to an Act passed by the Haryana Legislature in 2019 which stands stayed on 01.03.2019 by the Supreme Court.

The learned Counsel for the applicant states that if the Act enacted by the State of Haryana has been stayed, there is no legal bar to removing encroachments and constructions.

The NGT said, “Mere fact that the overlapping issues are pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court is no ground to enforce the order of this Tribunal. Further listed on January 28, 2022.”

aravali

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