The Supreme Court Friday rapped the Haryana government for a recent law which allowed construction in the Aravalli hills and sought to legitimise past constructions, and restrained the state from implementing it.
“It is really shocking. You are destroying the forest… it is not permissible,” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta observed, telling the state that the attempt to bring in the changes was “sheer contempt”.
“Do you think you are supreme? You are not supreme… the rule of law is supreme,” the bench said, pulling up the state over the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019, passed by the Haryana Assembly on February 27.
Appearing for the state government, Additional Advocate General Anil Grover told the bench that an amendment to the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 has been passed by the state assembly, but it was yet to get the Governor’s assent. The counsel submitted that he would file the state’s submissions, but the court was not enthused.
The top court was dealing with a matter in which it had earlier directed demolition of illegal constructions in the forest ranges of the hills.
The bench recalled that it had earlier asked the state not to allow construction in the forest regions of the Aravalli ranges, but it had gone ahead despite this.
The Haryana Assembly had passed the Bill amid strong protests by the opposition. The state said the changes were aimed at striking a balance between development and environment. The amendment was opposed by environmental activists and many residents who feared that it would legalise several illegal constructions in the forest areas of the Aravallis, extending across Gurgaon and Faridabad.
This would have included Kant Enclave, which was declared forest area by the apex court in September last year. The court had then ordered demolition of the unauthorised structures built there after August 18, 1992.
The court said that the construction activity at the site clearly violated the August 18, 1992, notification issued under The Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, and was also in violation of the court’s directions.
In January this year, the court however extended the deadline for demolition till July 31.It had asked the house owners to file undertakings that they will vacate by that date. The Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, provided for conservation of subsoil water and prevention of erosion in areas found to be subject to erosion or likely to become liable to erosion.