No farmhouses or any unauthorised structures in Aravali forest: SC

The Supreme Court on Friday held that no unauthorised constructions, be it farmhouses, will be allowed on forest land, as it granted four more weeks to the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to remove encroachments on Aravali forest land, near Khori village.

The civic body informed the court that unauthorised structures on nearly half of the area have already been removed.

Counsel representing the Municipal Corporation informed a bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari that so far 74 acres out of 150 acres have been cleared.

As senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing some petitioners, cited the issues with the rehabilitation, in view of a draft policy of the Municipal Corporation, the bench responded that people can share their suggestions on the issue with the Municipal Commissioner by Saturday, and they can be considered, on the aspect of feasibility.

The bench said that the policy should be notified by the authority by July 31 and if petitioners find it not acceptable, then they can challenge it.

At this juncture, Gonsalves cited an RTI application by an IAS officer and added that a detailed list of structures, including farmhouses and hotels, on forest land was given in response.

To this, the bench said: “You can be rest assured that on forest land, no unauthorised constructions will be allowed to remain, be it farmhouses or others.” It emphasised that it shouldn’t be presumed that such illegal structures will not be removed by the corporation and reiterated all unauthorised structures on forest land would have to be removed.

It observed the direction to remove unauthorised constructions from forest land applies to all structures without any exception, and noted that the corporation has moved into action in right earnest after its June 7 order.

As the civic body counsel submitted that three more weeks are required to clear all the unauthorised constructions on forest land, the bench said: “We accede to the request and grant four weeks further time from today for taking necessary steps in terms of the earlier order.”

The apex court had, on June 7, had directed Haryana and the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to remove “all encroachments”, which consisted of around 10,000 residential constructions, in Aravali forest. It had sought a compliance report after removal of all encroachments from forest land near Khori village within six weeks.

A counsel for petitioners contended no shelter has been provided to the evicted families and amid Covid and monsoon, the authorities should inform in advance before initiating the action. The bench observed these issues can be brought to the notice of the Commissioner and fixed the matter for further hearing on August 3.

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