The Supreme Court has given the Maharashtra government four weeks to reply to the recommendations made by the Central Empowered Committee appointed by the apex court on people residing around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
The committee in its report had rapped the state government over the way it was enforcing the Maharashtra Private Forests (Acquisition) Act.
The state had sought six weeks to file a reply. Rejecting the application,a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice M K Sharma told the state to reply in four weeks.
Last year,a High Court verdict pronounced nearly 5 lakh residents living on the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP)including Thane,Mulund and Vikhroli on the eastern suburbs and Malad,Kandivili and Poisar in the western suburbsas illegal residents.
Some housing complexes as well as settlements in existence for over six decades on the said land approached the SC. The SC-appointed CEC on July 13 gave its recommendations that went in favour of the residents.
Pointing out that while the Private Forest Act had laudable objectives,its implementation has been shoddy. The CEC recommended that a committee comprising one representative each from the Ministry of Environment and Forest,revenue and forest department,government of Maharashtra,Principal Chief Conservator Of Forests,Maharashtra and a reputed Non-Governmental Organisation,may be constituted for examination of the details of each case and placing them in the appropriate category.
This committee would then advice the state to determine the payment of Net Present Value (NPV) to regularize each category.
Accordingly,the CEC recommended permission to continue non-forestry use,dereservation and private ownership of lands after a payment of one time NPV of an adjoining forest area,in cases where the area which was acquired as forest but in the government records was never recorded as forest or an area which otherwise did not belong to the government and the sale,purchase was otherwise legally valid.
In case of commercial or industrial land being converted into residential,the committee recommended ten times the NPV. For the land where building plans are yet to be approved,it recommended 20 times the NPV. The amount collected could be deposited in a designated bank account and can be used for afforestation schemes,the CEC suggested.