New Delhi, July 1 (IANS): Dealing with an alleged encroachment on a reserved forest area in the national capital, the Delhi High Court observed that the mere fact that residents have built structures on that land cannot give them any right to continue residing there.
A holiday bench of Judge Sanjeev Narula and Neena Bansal Krishna was hearing a motion to quash a notice from Delhi’s Development Department declaring the land as “reserved forest” under Section 4 of India’s Forest Act of 1927.
“From the facts set forth in the Petition, it appears that the Petitioners have a strong desire to retain their encroached land. They cannot lawfully occupy the land in question which belongs to the Respondents. Simply because the Petitioners have built a structure on the land. petition land, it cannot give them any right to continue to reside there when the land under said structure does not belong to them,” he said in the order.
The bench also noted that allowing the present motion would unnecessarily impede the process of eliminating the encroachments.
As instructed by the Supreme Court and the National Green Court, the Forestry Department is now required to protect areas and promote reforestation, the court said in an order dated June 29.
Rajesh Pathak, solicitor for the petitioners, argued that the petition land was initially under the control of the Department of Revenue and was later declared as forest land.
He argued that despite the petition, the land was declared as a reserved forest in 1994, but the defendants never acted on it and the petitioners were not informed of such notification.
The petitioners are the legal owners of the houses erected on the land of the petition and are duly provided with electricity, water, etc. by government agencies. He also highlighted Aadhar cards in the same addresses and said the petitioners were mostly from an economically weaker section of society.
On the other hand, Additional Permanent Advocate Satyakam argued that the petitioners are trespassers of rank on public/reserve forest lands and are not entitled to any equitable remedy under the written jurisdiction of this court.
The court said: “We agree with Satyakam that granting relief to the claimants, as requested, would upset the situation which has been in place for over two decades.”
He also said that there is no room for any doubt as the supreme court has clearly ruled that the ridge area must be preserved and no cultivation or any type of construction can be allowed there.