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Haryana urges Supreme Court to lift ‘forest’ tag from Aravali land

 At a time when there is an uproar against Haryana government's move to allow more construction in unexplored regions including the Aravalis, the state has moved the Supreme Court aiming to free huge tracts of land declared as "forest" by the court in a mining related case in 2004. In the recently filed application, the Haryana government contested records of its own forest department which identify the land as "forests". It said, "Authentic records of any land, its ownership and use are maintained by the revenue department of the state, which have legal sanctity.

 

The records created and/or maintained by any other department (forest department, in this case) has no legal sanctity." It urged the apex court to modify/clarify its order of 2004 where it had banned non-forest activities in areas covered under Section 4&5 of Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) without prior approval of the central government as per the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. While green activists have been pushing for protecting forest areas, the state's move is aimed at bringing relief to owners of these "forest" land who had bought them at low rates. However, because of the forest tag, they are unable to use the land for building houses or other non-forest activity.

 

Taking out land from the ambit of Section 4&5 of PLPA will pave the way for more construction in these areas, which are no-go zones. The Haryana government has said that due to the "forest" tag, the landowners have "ceased to enjoy any rights" including its use even for agricultural purposes. "Thus, their proprietary rights have been taken away without any compensation," the government said. While the forest department still maintains that 27,304.47 hectares falls under "forest" as per Section 4&5 of PLPA, the state has submitted that these notifications had expired in case of 20,344.9 hectares. It has submitted that land covered under expired notification of PLPA should not be treated as "forest" in terms of its 2004 order.

 

The state has also said that the areas covered under the said notifications are privately or community owned lands. It has further argued that the PLPA permitted regulation of the areas is for temporary periods and not on permanent basis. However, the state forest department has recorded the lands in question as "forest" in its official documents.

 

Times of India, Delhi, Tuesday 6th May 2014