A National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench, headed by justice Jawad Rahim, on July 3, 2017, refrained from passing a status quo order on a plea that alleged that the state government had granted permission to two companies for felling trees, for developing a housing society, without obtaining forest clearance under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
The plea was filed by Lt Gen (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi, against the felling of trees for a housing society in village Sarai Khawaja in Faridabad. At the hearing, the counsel for the Haryana government sought time to file its reply. The tribunal asked the Manohar Lal Khattar government, Bharti Land Limited and Ajay Enterprises, to file their reply in the case by July 4, 2017 and posted the matter for hearing on July 5.
The counsel appearing for the state government, said that the petition was not maintainable and liable to be dismissed, on the ground that it was based only on letters written by the forest department. He sought time to file a detailed reply and said all queries would be solved in their written reply and urged the bench not to pass any interim order at this stage.
Senior advocate Pinaki Misra, appearing for Bharti Land Limited, said the nod given to the real estate firm clearly states that “Permission to fell/transplant trees/shrubs/bushes, is accorded in terms of stated conditions as prescribed by the government.” He said the real estate firm was ready to give an undertaking, to comply with the conditions stipulated in the permission by the government and termed the plea as ‘forum shopping of the worst kind’.
The former army man had raised the issue of direction to grant permission for felling of trees to Bharti Land Ltd, in collaboration with Ajay Enterprises Pvt Ltd, without obtaining forest clearance for the area which is recorded as ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (land unfit for cultivation) and forms part of the Aravalli hills and considered as deemed forest. According to the plea, the two firms had approached the divisional forest officer of Faridabad, seeking permission for felling approximately 1,000 trees on the land acquired by them and measuring 52.2991 acres, in Sarai Khawaja village of Faridabad.
It had contended that the Deputy Conservator of Forests of Faridabad wrote to the Conservator of Forests, South Circle, Gurgaon, on September 30, 2015 that such a permission cannot be granted as it forms part of the Aravallis, which are ecologically sensitive. However, in another letter dated April 24, the Additional Chief Secretary Forest Department wrote to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, directing him to grant necessary approval to Bharti Land Ltd for the felling of mesquite trees.
“Direct an independent team of the Environment Ministry, Forest Survey of India and Haryana Forest Department, to assess the number and size of tree species, individuals and other bushes/shrubs, actually present on the ground on the said lands recorded as ‘gair mumkin pahar’, extent of deforestation and conduct a satellite baseline assessment,” the plea had said.
It had also sought direction to the Haryana government, to declare all Aravalli hill including areas recorded ‘gair mumkin pahar’, as confirmed natural conservation zone, based on their Aravalli status alone, as shown in the Regional Plan 2021 and Haryana Sub Regional Plan 2021 and to prepare a village-wise list of Khasra numbers of such areas.