Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 19
The Uttar Pradesh Government on Thursday requested the Supreme Court to cancel all illegal claims settled in Renukoot-Mirzapur reserved forest after July 18, 1994 cut-off date, saying Forest Officers and District Judges were allowing filing of claims even after court’s order to the contrary.
By its July 18, 1994 order the top court had said no person or industry can be allowed to encroach on reserved forest land and no such claim can be entertained.
A three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra wondered if the Uttar Pradesh Government was “sleeping” for the past 26 years on the illegal settlement of claims in favour of industries and third parties in the reserved forest areas of Mirzapur district.
The Bench – which also included Justice MR Shah and Justice BR Gavai — refused to pass any ex-parte (without hearing the other side) orders on quashing of such claims, saying there might be thousands of crores of rupees invested by industries in these areas.
“This has been going on since 1994 and now after 26 years you have come. You were sleeping for 26 years and now you are asking us to remove everyone. What were you doing all these years? Do you not have any disciplinary control over these forest officers?” asked the Bench which had converted a letter written by Banwasi Sewa Ashram into a writ petition with regard to tribals’ claim to land and their related rights.
It asked UP Government to submit the list of individuals and establishments, including industries in whose favour claims were settled and posted the matter for hearing next week.
On behalf of Uttar Pradesh government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the Supreme Court had in 1986 fixed the cut-off date of July 18, 1994 for settlement of claims but these were going on till date.
In certain cases claims were settled in favour of people who were not even residents of the state and, in some cases claims were settled for the piece of land for which the claim was already settled.
Mehta said these claims were adjudicated contrary to the top court’s July 18, 1994 order, in which it had said that no third party or industry could be allotted land in these reserved forest areas. He said there may be over 1,100 beneficiaries of such claims, including some public sector undertakings such as NTPC, UP state electricity board and others.
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