“What we have done to this city is a criminal act,” an anguished Delhi High Court has said while strongly deploring alleged encroachments of forest land in Neb Sarai village in south Delhi. A bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal, said that no encroachments could be permitted in the ridge areas of the national capital as these were primary “natural features”. It said it was shocking that forest land fell prey to illegal constructions and encroachments. “What we have done to this city is a criminal act. Delhi has become a mess,” the bench observed.
The strong remarks came during hearing of an application by a Neb Sarai-based couple who have urged the court to direct the Delhi government’s forest department to provide space for entry and exit from their house. They have said that a boundary wall constructed near their house to protect the forest area, has obstructed access to their flat.
The duo have submitted that the space near their house did not come under forest area and if the court found it to the contrary, then they would willingly hand over the possession of the land in front of their house which has been allegedly encroached by the family. “At least for the time being, entry and exit be allowed to them,” their counsel has submitted.
The bench, in an interim order, has asked the forest department to give then couple five feet of space for entry and exit. It, however, has made clear that this right was not open to other residents of the area. The bench has observed that the law laid down by the Supreme Court as well as the statutory mandate have to be strictly complied with and should “brook no breach”.
“Directions to this effect were passed in 1980 by the Supreme Court in several orders,” it has said, adding that “this order has to be strictly complied with”. “The forest land cannot be converted into a thoroughfare which is clearly beyond planned development under the Master Plan,” it has said.
The court had earlier ordered construction of a boundary wall on a PIL by Delhi-resident Deepak Batra, who has sought a direction against alleged encroachments in forest areas near Neb Sarai in Indira Enclave. The petitioner had placed before the court the April 1966 notification issued by the revenue department of the Delhi government declaring the uncultivated land of the ‘gaon sabha’ as a ridge area.
The counsel had also said that the lieutenant governor of Delhi in 1994 had declared such land as reserved forest.
The petition has sought blocking of a road constructed in the forest area to provide access for emergency vehicles to reach Indira Enclave, an unauthorised colony, close to the posh Sainik Farms area which too has been in news over alleged illegal constructions there.
The court had said, “This is more so in view of the imperative need for addressing environmental concerns on a war footing given the adverse impact of global warming.”