March 9, 2019 1:50:58 am
Keeping the heat on the Haryana government over its Bill to allow construction in the Aravallis, the Supreme Court Friday warned the state of consequences if “anything” was done to the protected area.
“If you do anything to Aravalli, you will be in trouble. If you do anything to Kant Enclave, you will be in trouble…,” Justice Arun Mishra, sitting on a bench with Justice Deepak Gupta, remarked when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Haryana, submitted that he “will be able to satisfy (the court) that the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019, is not to help anyone as projected by news reports”.
Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, the amicus curiae in the case, however, sought to contradict Mehta and said: “It was.”
Mehta submitted that the Assembly had passed the Bill, but it had still not become an Act.
On March 1, the court had rapped the state government over the Bill passed by the Haryana Assembly on February 27, opening up the Aravallis to non-forest activity and seeking to legitimise past constructions. The court restrained the state from implementing this.
“It is really shocking. You are destroying the forest… it is not permissible,” the bench observed, telling the state that an 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 told the state.
The Haryana Assembly had passed the Bill amid strong protests by the opposition, which has alleged a “scam” behind the move. 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 the 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 violated the August 18, 1992, notification issued under The Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900, as well as the court’s directions.
In January this year, the court however extended the deadline for demolishing these till July 31. It had asked homeowners to file undertakings that they will vacate the premises 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, thus saving the Aravallis from rampant construction.
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