Uttarakhand High Court Orders Removal of Forest Land Encroachments due to Lack of State Authorities’ Supervision

LI Network 

Published on: 29 July 2023 at 14:12 IST

The Uttarakhand High Court has issued a directive to remove encroachments on forest land, attributing the problem to the lack of supervision and vigilance by the State authorities.

Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal, presiding over the Division Bench, expressed concern about the widespread occurrence of such encroachments not only on the mentioned road but also on other roads in the state.

The Bench noted that the easy accessibility and absence of monitoring by State authorities, particularly the Revenue and Forest Authorities, led people to encroach upon government and forest lands along highways and state roads.

The Court highlighted the possibility of officers belonging to the concerned departments being involved with such encroachers in these illegal activities. Standing Counsel Vikas Pande represented the State in the matter.

The High Court took suo motu cognizance of a letter received from Prabhat Gandhi, dated July 19, 2023, which pointed out the encroachments taking place between Khutani Mod and Padampuri roads.

Photographs were submitted as evidence, showing that various individuals had set up their businesses on forest land along highways, with some planning to establish a temple, currently enclosed by barbed wires.

To address the issue, the Court issued notices and accepted appearances on behalf of the respondents. However, the Court did not jump to conclusions and directed the District Magistrate and the Divisional Forest Officer of Nainital to file a specific report regarding the encroachments highlighted by the petitioner.

It urged them to take appropriate remedial action immediately without awaiting further court orders if such encroachments were indeed found.

Expanding the scope of the petition, the Court issued notices to all District Magistrates and Divisional Forest Officers in the State to conduct inspections of State Highways and Roads, reporting on existing encroachments, and taking necessary measures for their removal promptly.

The Court also directed the Secretaries of the HCLSC (High Court Legal Services Committee) and the DLSAs (District Legal Services Authorities) to enlist the aid of Para Legal Volunteers to report encroachments in their respective districts. They were instructed to file reports detailing encroachments with photographs and location particulars before the next hearing.

The Court ordered all District Magistrates and Divisional Forest Officers to file their respective action taken reports within four weeks, along with photographs, to further address the encroachment issue. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for September 5, 2023.

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