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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Explained: Why Haryana is looking forward to Supreme Court judgments on protection of forest land

The government has said that if it implements apex court's 2018 verdict in the Faridabad Kant Enclave demolition case, it would mean that all structures that stand on 40 per cent of the state's geographical area would required to be demolished.

Written by Varinder Bhatia , Edited by Explained Desk | Chandigarh |
Updated: October 27, 2021 9:18:56 am
Aravali range hills and forest in Faridabad and Gurgaon District. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

The Haryana government recently filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying around 40 per cent of the state’s area comes under forest land and all the areas covered under Punjab Land Preservation Act cannot be considered as a “forest land”. The government has also said that if it implements the apex court’s 2018 verdict in the Faridabad Kant Enclave demolition case, it would mean that all the structures that stand on 40 per cent of the state’s geographical area would required to be demolished. Expressing its inability to follow the verdict and citing “unparalleled law and order problems” that could emanate if the government attempts to implement the verdict, the government has prayed for further instructions from the court. The case now comes up in Supreme Court on November 15.

The Indian Express explains the affidavit, and its relation to the Aravalis forest land.

Why did Haryana government file this affidavit?

In 2002, 2018 and recently in July 2021, the Supreme Court has reiterated that “all areas notified under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the PLP Act are forest land including where the validity period of the notification has expired”, adding: “Every structure constructed on such land after issuance of any notification under the provisions of the PLP Act are illegal structures and are required to be demolished.”

On July 23, a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari directed the Haryana government to ensure that all unauthorised structures standing on Aravali forest land — “without any exception” — should be cleared.

On September 20, hearing a case filed by Satpal and Others versus Union of India, the Supreme Court directed Haryana government to file an affidavit “to clearly state about the factual basis as to how the area has been first notified as forest area” and to clarify related matters. In response, Haryana Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests filed the affidavit apprising the court about multiple notifications over the years declaring forest land in the state and explaining why all structures on the land covered under PLPA can not be removed.

What did the Haryana government say in the affidavit?

The government apprised the apex court that total area of 17,39,907 Ha (39.35 per cent of the total geographical area of the State) has been notified under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation (PLPA) Act. This includes 100 per cent area of at least 11 of the 22 districts including Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal, Mewat, Mahendragarh, Rewari, Bhiwani and Charkhi Dadri.

Giving reference to the apex court’s judgments in multiple cases, the state has said that, “About 39.35 per cent of the geographical area of the State of haryana, being notified under the provisions of the PLP Act are required to be considered as forest and every structure constructed after issuance of the notification for the first time are required to be considered as illegal and are required to be demolished.”

What is the challenge the government faces now?

In the Kant Enclave case, the Supreme Court order pertaining to Khori village said “all areas notified under Section 3, 4 and 5 of the PLP Act are required to be considered as forest and structures standing thereon are required to be considered as illegal, unless requisite permission under Forest Conservation Act is obtained, and liable to be demolished”.

Many of those 129 owners who were served notices claimed that their premises in Faridabad’s Kheri village were outside the forest area. However, state government dismissed their objections citing the rule that the land was notified under the PLP Act and was being considered a “forest land”. The forest department then issued demolition notices to all these owners.

What is the list of critical establishments that Haryana says will be required to be demolished?

If Supreme Court’s directives is followed, Haryana says many critical establishments like the CRPF Group Centre in Kalka, Panchkula, Terminal Ballistic Research Laboratory (TBRL) and Test Range in Ramgarh, Panchkula, ITBP Corporate Office in Ramgarh (Panchkula, Chandimandir Cantonment in Panchkula, the Indira Gandhi Super Thermal Power Plant in Jhajjar, Deen Bandhu Sir Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology and CRPF Camp in Sonipat, Gurgaon Air Force Station, Tata Energy Research Institute and National Institute of Solar Energy along with hundreds of headquarters of multinational companies, hundreds of government offices, hospital and educational institutes in Gurgaon and National Secruity Guard complex in Manesar would have to be razed.

What are the two key decisions on PLPA that are yet pending in Supreme Court?

In 2014, the Haryana government approached Supreme Court in the MC Mehta and other cases where the Court was considering protection of Aravali forest land. Haryana, at that time, moved an application seeking clarification that land notified under expired notifications or orders passed under Section 4, 5 of PLPA should not be treated as forest. This plea is still pending consideration of the apex court.

In February 2019, following the Kant Enclave judgment, Haryana Vidhan Sabha passed an amendment to PLPA and excluded certain lands meant for construction from the ambit of PLPA notification. But, on March 1, 2019, Supreme Court forbade the Haryana government from taking any action in furtherance of the the PLPA (Amendment) Act, 2019. This matter is also yet pending.

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