Emphasising that “land grabbers cannot take refuge of rule of law” and talk of “fairness”, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Faridabad municipal corporation to remove “all encroachments” in the Aravali forest region in the Lakkadpur-Khori village area.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheswari gave the corporation and Haryana six weeks to remove the encroachments and submit a compliance report. The bench was hearing a plea on behalf of the affected residential units, numbering around 10,000, challenging the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy to the extent that it limited the cut-off for rehabilitation to 2003.

The court referred to its earlier orders in the matter and said the petitioners are bound by them. “Therefore, we reiterate our directions given to the Corporation as well to the State of Haryana as noted in the stated orders of this Court and expect that the Corporation will take all essential measures to remove encroachments on the subject forest land without any exception, not later than six weeks from today and submit a compliance report in that behalf, under the signature of the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation,” the bench ordered.

The court directed that the Secretary, Haryana Forest Department, “shall also cause to verify the factual situation regarding encroachments on the subject forest land and submit independent compliance report under his signature. After those certificates are submitted within six weeks as aforesaid, the Court may consider passing further directions including regarding due verification of factual statements recorded in the certificates through an independent agency”.

It said that the State in general and the local police in particular, “shall give necessary and adequate logistical support to enable the Corporation to implement the directions given by us to evict the occupants/encroachers including by forcible eviction from the subject forest land and to clear all the encroachments therefrom”, and that “the Superintendent of Police, District Faridabad, shall be personally responsible for ensuring adequate logistical support and police protection to the officials of the Corporation as we have already indicated in the earlier orders”.

Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves contended that those who are being evicted must be rehabilitated immediately, but the court observed, “who is asking this? Land grabbers! When you come to court you become honest and law abiding and on site, you do not do anything lawful”.

The court pointed out that it had passed an interim order in February, 2020 and since it is an encroachment of forest land, it has to be vacated and “if in future, the state government wants to accommodate you that is up to the state”.

“First forest land has to be cleared. No concession with regard to the forest land”, the bench told the counsel for Haryana.

Turning to Gonsalves, the court added, “When you come here, you speak of rule of law. Is this rule of law that you grab forest land and then ask for a policy to be formulated?”

The court said it will keep the matter pending to ensure that its order is complied with and fixed July 27 to hear it next.

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