The PUNJAB AND Haryana High Court has ordered the status quo on the appointment of a forest settlement officer (FSO), who was deputed to examine whether the process of forest settlement laid down in forest and revenue laws was followed at the time of acquisition of around 52,000 acres of land in the area of Morni hills.
The order was issued on August 13 on a fresh application in a matter concerning a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Vijay Bansal, president of Shivalik Vikas Manch. The Haryana government was instructed to file its reply in the High Court on August 17. Haryana Additional Advocate General Deepak Balyan received the order.
The PIL was filed in the High Court in 2017 and later the Haryana Forest Department deputed a retired IFS officer, M P Sharma, as the FSO. In February 2018, the Haryana government had apprised the Punjab and Haryana High Court of the appointment of retired IFS, MP Sharma, as the FSO for a tenure of two years. The tenure of FSO was completed on July 31, 2020.
The petitioner, Vijay Bansal, moved a fresh application in the High Court stating the forest settlement process was not started on July 30. The applicant claimed in his application that the Haryana government had filed a misleading reply before the High Court about the appointment of FSO in February 2018. The application claimed that the FSO was not given any infrastructure and manpower for examining the settlement record. Hence, the process of examining the settlement was not started.
According to the petitioner, the Haryana government had acquired around 52,000 acres of land in 1969 and later without adopting the forest settlement process described in forest and revenue laws. There are around 40,000 people from various villages of Morni, who are still deprived of the compensation and even do not know about their exact land. Vijay Bansal claimed that in the absence of any clarity on the subject, illegal encroachment, illegal mining and deforestation continues in Morni hills.
Sources in the Haryana forest department said the matter is being discussed at a higher level. Earlier too, FSOs were deputed from time to time but the process of analyzing the actual land is yet to be completed.
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