The Supreme Court Tuesday held that land on which Kant Enclave in Faridabad is located is forest land, and ordered demolition of all construction there carried out after August 18, 1992. A Bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta pulled up R Kant & Co, which carried out construction in the area, and Haryana Town & Country Planning Department for allowing it. The court said their actions had caused “irreversible” damage to the Aravalli hills.
“The construction activity carried out by the applicant R Kant & Co is clearly in violation of the notification dated August18, 1992 and in blatant defiance of orders passed by this court from time to time. Unfortunately, the Town & Country Planning Department of the State of Haryana has been supporting the illegalities of the applicant despite strong resistance from the Forest Department of the state. There is no doubt that at the end of the day, the State of Haryana comes out in very poor light and must be held accountable for its conflicting and self-destructive stand taken in spite of affidavits filed by the Chief Secretary of the State from time to time supporting the Forest Department,” the court said.
The bench upheld the August 18, 1992 notification issued under the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, prohibiting the clearing or breaking up of land not ordinarily under cultivation. “Permission to break the land for cultivation could be permitted by the Divisional Forest Officer, Faridabad Forest Division. In any event, construction activity could not be permitted even by the Divisional Forest Officer,” the court pointed out.
It said that “in the present case of Kant Enclave, well-meaning citizens have been virtually duped into investing huge amounts despite R Kant & Co and the Town & Country Department being fully aware of the statutory notification dated August 18, 1992 and the restrictions placed by the notification. R Kant & Co and the Town & Country Department were also fully aware that… any construction made on the land or utilisation of the land for non-forest purposes, without the prior approval of the central government, would be illegal and violative of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.”
The court directed the company to refund the entire investment made by people who had got land from it, with interest at the rate of 18%. For those who had got land and constructed on it, the court accepted the suggestion — made by the Haryana Chief Secretary in a 2009 affidavit — that constructions carried out between April 17, 1984 and August 18, 1992 be allowed to continue. However, it asked the state government to demolish all constructions carried out after August 18, 1992. “The demolition should be completed on or before December 31, 2018,” the court ordered.
For constructions that are to be demolished, the court directed the company and the Town and Country Department to jointly pay them Rs 50 lakh for each construction before December 31. Applying the polluter pays principle, the court also asked Kant & Co to pay Rs 5 crore for “irreversible damage” caused to the Aravalli hills. “This amount should be deposited within one month and in any case on or before October 31, 2018.”
The Bench lashed out at Haryana Government, saying, “The rule of law seems to have broken down in Haryana and become the rule of men only to favour the applicants (builder).” It added that “the unfortunate and distressing consequence of this is that because of a complete lack of any concern for the environmental and ecological degradation carried out in the Aravalli hills by influential colonisers, like the applicant and what appears to be a very strong mining lobby in Haryana, the damage caused to the Aravalli hills is irreversible”.