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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

State files review petition against SC forest land nod

Wants To Protect Green Cover But Residents Upset

In a move that may spell trouble for more than 3 lakh people who bought property on land deemed private forest, the government has filed a review petition against a Supreme Court order that allows residents to live there. But those residing there are upset with the state's decision, maintaining that there was nothing illegal about the properties in the green belt.

The revenue and forest department has moved the apex court, asking it to review the removal of "private forest" tag to swatches of land across the state, including Mulund, Bhandup, Borivli, Kanidvli, Thane, Virar, Badlapur and Ambernath.
"The forest cover is much less than the national average. Allowing regularization of constructions on forest land will lead to further depletion of the green cover. The department also feels that owing to ambiguity in forest rules, the law has not been interpreted properly . So the state has filed a review petition," a senior forest department official in Thane said. The review petition was filed in April. "The subject will come up for hearing only after court reopens following vacation."

The SC last year set aside a 2008 Bombay high court judgment that had declared houses built on plots deemed private forest land in Mumbai and Thane as illegal. The apex court said the administration could not demolish constructions on the green belt by declaring them "private forest" and issuing notice under section 35 (3) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The properties were to be regularized.

The state's recent effort to review the SC order has not gone down well with residents. "The government collects taxes from residents. This shows that there is no illegality. Despite knowing that it is wrong, the state has gone ahead and filed a review pet ition. This is nothing but harassment by the bureaucracy ," said Thane resident Pandharinath Samant. "What were revenue and forest officials doing when the urban development department and the civic bodies gave permissions and clearances to developers for building and registering the houses?" Now with the filing of the review petition, the process of regularizing the houses has also been put on hold. "The status quo on the issue continues as the DF government awaits Supreme Court's verdict on the review petition," the official said.


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