The Uttarakhand High Court has directed the removal of the encroachments on the forest land on account of lack of supervision and vigil by the State authorities.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal said, “We can take cognizance of the fact that this situation is rampant in the State, not only on the road in question, but on the other roads as well. The people are tempted to encroach on government land/ forest land falling along the Highways, and the State Roads on account of easy accessibility and due to lack of supervision and vigil by the State Authorities, particularly, the Revenue and the Forest Authorities in the State.”

The Bench noted that the possibility of the officers on the ground belonging to the aforesaid departments, being in hand in gloves with such encroachers, cannot be ruled out.

Standing Counsel Vikas Pande appeared on behalf of the State in this matter.

A petition was registered suo motu by the High Court on the basis of the letter received from one Prabhat Gandhi, dated July 19, 2023, pointing out the encroachment which was taking place by the people on the road between Khutani Mod and Padampuri. The photographs were also placed on record, which showed that along the Highways, on forest land, several persons had set up their business enterprises, and even a temple was proposed to be set up which is presently bounded by barbed wires.

The High Court in the above context observed, “Issue notice. Learned counsel appears and accepts notice on behalf of the respondents.”

The Court said that it does not want to jump to any conclusion and hence directed the District Magistrate, Nainital, and the Divisional Forest Officer, Nainital to file a specific report in relation to the encroachments pointed out by the petitioner, and to take remedial steps without waiting for any further orders from the court, in case it is found that such encroachments have actually taken place.

“The status report should indicate the action taken by the authorities for removal of the encroachment, if any. … We enlarge the scope of this petition in the light of the aforesaid. … We issue notice to all the District Magistrates in the State, as well as to all the Division Forest Officers in the State to similarly carry out inspection of the State Highways, and State Roads; to report with regard to the existing encroachments, and; to take remedial steps to remove the same without any further delay”, ordered the Court.

The Court further directed the Secretaries of the HCLSC and the DLSAs to take the assistance of the Para Legal Volunteers for reporting encroachments, and to file reports before it in respect of their respective Districts, giving the status of encroachments found, with photographs and particulars of locations, before the next date.

“The reports of all the District Magistrates, and the Divisional Forest Officers be filed within four weeks alongwith the action taken report. They shall also file photographs along with their respective affidavits/ status report before the next date”, said the Court.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter on September 5, 2023.

Cause Title- Suo Motu PIL in the matter of Encroachment on Forest Land and River Bank Padampuri v. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest PCCF and Others

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