The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Wednesday granted a week’s time to Special Investigation Team (SIT) to complete felling of the apple plants in the apple-belt of Shimla as part of a court-ordered drive to clear illegal encroachments on forest land.
The SIT headed by Debshweta Banik, Additional DC (Shimla), on Wednesday submitted its report in the High Court informing that forest encroachments in eight cases, out of total 13 have been removed by felling apple plants.
While the High Court has granted three week’s time in one case to clarify the facts, the rest will be taken-up immediately to clear the encroachments by May 17.
Seeking more time to complete the task in case of 13 big encroachments ,involving land up to 200 bighas,the SIT assured compliance of the Court orders. The case was listed before Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan. The next hearing is on May 17 .
The court, however, declined to revisit its earlier order even as some orchard owners approached the court alleging that SIT was not following proper process of law to ascertain the title of the land and to which extent the encroachments have been made.
“Well, our order is evidently clear and we are not inclined to interfere and pass any other order, save and except, we have already indicated in our earlier orders, which we reiterate today. If such persons are aggrieved, let them file their affidavits and we shall deal with the same. Report of the Special Investigation Team is taken on record. Time, as prayed for, is extended up to 17.5.2018,” the bench ordered.
The SIT report from the area said they have made a substantial headway in the drive to clear illegal forest encroachments involving hundreds of apple plants, which were flattened by the joint teams of the forest and revenue department in Rohru sub-division of Shimla to enforce High Court orders.
The orchard owners who faced the axe on the their fruit-bearing plants included 13 those which High Court had identified as ‘big’ apple producers, who had allegedly encroached 50 to 200 bighas of the forests and had made riches out of the apple economy during past four decades.
Debashweta Banik had been supervising the drive in Kotkhai, Jubbal and Rohru areas causing panic among the rich orchard owners about losing the impending crop and also their orchards for ever now.
Taking lessons from Kasauli incident where Assistant Town Planner (ATP) Shail Bala was killed, Shimla Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap had issued orders asking all weapon holders to deposit their arms.
“There has been a compliance of the order as barring one person, who was admitted at PGI Chandigarh, everyone has deposited their arms. The areas where felling of the plants was undertaken have also been properly cordoned off and no one is allowed to have access to the operational area,” he said.