Shimla, August 30
Taking a serious note on the issue of encroachments on the forest land, the HP High Court today directed the state government to initiate process to identify the encroachments over the forest land and the persons who have planted fruit bearing trees and to take necessary steps for their eviction.
While passing this direction, a division bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Thakur further directed the state to register FIRs also against those persons under the Indian Forest Act and Indian Penal Code.
The court further directed the Director, Enforcement Directorate, Union Ministry of Finance, to register cases against those persons who have encroached upon the huge tracts of forest land and have planted fruit bearing trees and amassed ill-gotten money and also engaged in money laundering within three months.
It also directed the state government to provide necessary details of the persons, who have encroached upon more than 10 bighas of forest land and have also indulged in money laundering within four weeks to the Director, Enforcement Directorate to enable it to register cases against them.
It further clarified in its order that it shall be open for the Director, Enforcement to confiscate/forfeit the property of the persons, who have encroached upon more than 10 bighas of forest land under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002.
While holding Chief Secretary personally liable for the implementations of the above said directions the court further directed the State Vigilance Department to carry out periodical verification of movable and immovable properties of the revenue officials/forest officers posted, more particularly, in Districts Mandi, Shimla, Chamba and Sirmaur, where the encroachment on forest land is rampant every six months.
It also directed the government to carry out the demarcation of un-demarcated forest in the state within one year by maps prepared by electronic methods i.e. geomatics (remote sensing and GIS), GPS and satellite imagery, in larger interest.
While passing these directions the court observed that “the state property cannot be permitted to be taken over by unscrupulous persons. The state government has not made sincere efforts to prevent and evict the persons who have encroached upon the forest land. The state government has only taken steps after the intervention of this court to evict the persons who have unauthorizedly occupied the forest land and raised orchards.”
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