Thursday, November 30, 2023

Uttarakhand High Court directs registry to register special appeal as PIL preferred assailing order

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The Uttarakhand High Court directed the Registry to register the special appeal as a Public Interest Litigation which is preferred assailing the order dated 12.04.2023, passed by the Single Judge in a Petition , whereby the appellant’s petition has been dismissed.

The appellant had preferred the said petition to seek a direction to the respondent authorities to take action against the private respondent so that they do not uproot the trees.

He also sought compensation for damages caused due to removal/ destruction of walnut trees planted by him on the land.

The Single Judge dismissed the petition by observing that the area over which the appellant planted walnut trees was declared as a Reserved Forest, and nobody could exploit the same by sowing crops or planting fruit bearing trees. It was observed that no one can use forest land for commercial purposes, and therefore, there was no scope of interference in the matter.

The Counsel for the appellant submits that the land, in question, was a barren land, and not a reserved forest, as observed in the impugned order. He has referred to the report stated to have been prepared by the Patwari. It records the fact that 100 walnut trees had been planted on the barren land, which have been uprooted by certain individuals, who have been impleaded by the appellant in the petition, as party respondents. He has also referred to another Joint Inspection Report dated 23.04.2023, prepared by the Revenue Sub-Inspector, which records the encroachment which has taken place on the public land. It also records the names of the persons, and the extent of forest land, encroached by them.

The Counsel for the appellant, on instructions, states that the appellant has no financial interest in the matter, and he gives up the second prayer made in the writ petition, i.e. for damages caused due to the removal/ destruction of walnut trees by encroachment on forest land.

In the aforesaid light, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal inclined to treat the present special appeal as a Public Interest Litigation, since it involves cutting and removal of trees planted on barren land.

The appellant is certainly not entitled to commercially use the forest land by planting trees. The trees have been uprooted from the public land, and not from the personal land. Therefore, the appellant cannot claim damages. However, the aspect of public interest involved in removal of such trees from public land, requires consideration, the Bench observed.

The Court issued notice and posted the matter on 07.11.2023 for further hearing.

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