Himachal HC refuses to modify forest encroachment order

Shimla, July 27 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday refused to modify its interim directions to clear encroachments on forest land by fruit growers by October, adding that electricity and water connections of the encroachers should be disconnected.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan said the government officers, comprising the chief secretary and the principal secretary (forests), are held responsible to pluck the apples (grown on the encroached land), conduct their sale and utilise the sale price for planting forest trees.

Getting tough, the high court on April 6 directed the government to clear the encroachments by the fruit growers on forest land within six months.

A division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, in an interim order, had observed that all crops and plants existing on such lands shall be destroyed, cut and uprooted at the expense of the encroachers.

Official sources told IANS that last week the state had filed a review petition in the high court.

“It appears that the state has not sought modification of the orders but has shown its bona fides to protect the apple trees, the fruits and the crop(s), which is/are standing on the encroached forest land and to protect the environment as cutting of a large number of trees may cause deforestation,” said the bench in its eight-page order.

“Before we pass any direction, we deem it proper to record herein that it appears that the officials of the state have remained in deep slumber for a pretty long time,” it observed. The high court directed the government to take an exercise of pruning of apple trees on the encroached forest land after plucking the apples in order to minimise the apple crop in the coming seasons,” the judges said.

“For the coming seasons, if any crop grows on its own, i.e. by natural process, that be destroyed,” they said.

The bench also directed the state to ensure that immediately after removing the crops the plantation drive is made so that no land remains vacant to plant apple trees and the species of the crop, which is standing as on today, on the encroached forest land.

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