M A I N   N E W S

Demolish Forest Hill Club: HC
Maneesh Chhibber
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, October 12
In an unprecedented order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today ordered demolition of the illegally-constructed Forest Hill Golf Club and Resort at village Karoran in Ropar.

The Court also ordered immediate closure of the Club.

The Court directed the owners of the Club to demolish the club within 90 days, failing which it would be the duty of the authorities to do so. The management and control of the land has been ordered to be given to the Punjab Forest Department.

Passing this order in a case relating to alleged irregularities and violation of laws in the construction of the Club, the Court also directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to constitute a special investigating team headed by an officer not below the rank of DIG to investigate the matter after lodging an FIR.

The CBI was given six months’ time to complete the investigation.

The Bench asked the CBI to conduct a thorough probe into the question of accountability of top executive and administration functionaries of Punjab and some officers of the Central Government in relation to establishment and development of the Club.

The CBI was asked to report if any one of them indulged in taking direct or indirect gratification or acted in violation of rules and to register a case if a cognizable offence was established to have been committed.

However, the Division Bench of the Chief Justice, Mr Justice B.K. Roy, and Mr Justice Surya Kant ordered that members of the judiciary would not be within the ambit of the investigation. If during the course of investigation, the CBI finds any incriminating material against any member of the judiciary, the same would be brought to the notice of the competent authority for appropriate action, the Bench ordered.

In the 147-page judgement, the Bench also ordered that the electricity supply to the Club be cut. The excise licence of the Club was also ordered to be rescinded and the entire stock of liquor present in the club ordered to be seized.

The Bench also directed the Punjab Revenue Department to carry out necessary correction in its record of rights regarding the Club land. The Forest Department was ordered to take corrective steps to restore the land to its old shape. It was directed to submit half-yearly reports in the court in this regard.

The Bench also imposed costs of Rs 25,000 on the owner of the Club, Col B.S. Sandhu (retd).

The Bench also ordered that all pending appeals in matters concerning the Club would be decided within two months.

The High Court had taken suo motu notice of reports in the media about the allegation that the Club management had violated the forest laws and other byelaws while constructing the resort.

The club was set up over an area of 381 acre of forest land near Chandigarh for non-forest purposes even after the Centre had refused permission under the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

During hearings in the case, amicus curiae Anupam Gupta had brought to the Court’s notice that sitting Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court — Mr Justice Viney Mittal and Mr Justice Virender Singh, top bureaucrats, police officers, Ministers and Central Government officers had accepted honorary or ex-officio membership from the Club management.

Chief Justice Roy had also sought explanation from the two Judges for having taken ex-officio membership of the controversial Club.

In his arguments, Mr Gupta had repeatedly told the Court that investigation in the matter should be got done only through the CBI.

He had argued that since almost the entire top brass of the police and bureaucracy in Punjab had taken free membership from the club, it would be wrong to assume that an investigation by a state agency would uncover the truth.

The hearings saw war-of-words between counsels of the different parties, with even the Punjab Government sometimes facing heat for wrong actions of its officers.

Meanwhile, reacting to the judgement, Col Sandhu said that the Club management would move the Supreme Court at the earliest against the HC order.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |