Punjab government Thursday removed senior IFS senior Kuldip Kumar from the post of forest department-Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Head of Forest Force (PCCF, HoFF), 10 days after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) rebuked the state in the case of illegal felling of 24,777 trees for Bist Doab Canal.
Senior IFS officer Jitendra Sharma has now been posted as PCCF(HoFF) while Kumar will be PCCF (Wildlife). Dhirendra Singh, who was posted as PCCF (Wildlife) has now been transferred as PCCF (IWARD).
On February 10, the NGT had rapped Punjab government for retaining Kumar as PCCF (HoFF) noting that he was the “same gentleman” who had held the post when the trees were allegedly felled illegally and there was “willful violation of Forest Conservation Act.” The tribunal had also summoned Punjab chief secretary for “personal hearing” on February 24 to “give an explanation”.
A part of the transfer orders issued Thursday (Copy with The Indian Express) reads: ‘These orders have been issued in accordance with National Green Tribunal orders dated February 10, 2020 in 2016 case of Nishant Kumar Alag after the approval of Chief Minister”. The order has been undersigned by Roshan Sunkaria, additional chief secretary-cum-financial commissioner, forest and wildlife, Punjab.
The green tribunal had also rapped Punjab government for appointing IAS officer and additional chief secretary Viswajeet Khanna as the new enquiry officer in the case noting that he was posted as Punjab’s financial commissioner-cum-principal secretary (forest) when trees were cut. “It is an attempt to circumvent NGT orders,” said the tribunal.
The two senior most IFS officers of Punjab — Kumar and Sharma — both from the 1984 batch, had also taken their fight for the top post of PCCF (HoFF) to Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which too in its orders dated January 8, 2020 had directed Punjab government to decide the matter within three weeks and pass a fresh order deciding who among the two will get the top forest post.
Sharma had moved CAT claiming that Kumar was his junior.
The Bist Doab Canal passes through Nawanshahr (SBS Nagar), Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Ropar districts and at least 24,777 trees were allegedly felled illegally along it in 2016-17 during SAD-BJP regime, to facilitate cement lining of canal undertaken by irrigation department.
In its orders dated August 16, 2018, NGT had ordered Punjab government to get the entire case investigated thoroughly by “an officer not below the rank of Additional Chief Secretary to affix the responsibility upon the officers who were responsible for violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and to take strict action in accordance with law”.
The green Tribunal in the same order had stated that PCCF and a divisional forest officer had deliberately ignored the fact that the trees stood in the area demarcated as protected forest and it was a willful violation of the Forest Conservation Act. Kumar was posted as PCCF (HoFF) then too.
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