SC orders demolition of 10k houses in Aravali

The Supreme Court ordered Faridabad Municipal Corporation to clear the eco-sensitive Aravali forest land of encroachments within six weeks and demolish around 10,000 houses built unauthorisedly in Lakkarpur-Khori village. It put the onus of compliance on the Haryana forest secretary and the commissioner of the civic body.

Appearing for a village resident, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves pleaded for mercy and said most inhabitants of the village could be given houses at alternative sites if the Haryana government rehabilitation policy cut-off was advanced from 2003 to 2015. "Most of them have been living there since the 1980s when mining was carried on in Aravali. But they don't have documents to prove it. They have proof of residence since 2010," he said.

A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said it was surprising that the authorities had not demolished unauthorised houses on forest land despite SC orders passed in February last year and in April this year. The civic body, through senior advocate Arun Bharadwaj, said the villagers resorted to stone pelting when corporation officials attempted a demolition drive.

When Gonsalves said the residents were willing to vacate the houses if they were provided alternative accommodation by the government under a rehabilitation plan, the bench said, "Who is arguing this, land grabbers? It is forest land. So, there can be no compromise in restoring and maintaining its character. You vacate, or we direct eviction."

The SC had stopped mining activities in the Aravalis by several orders since 2001. But the area in Lakkarpur-Khori saw thousands of families settle down and build houses right under the nose of police and civic authority officials till the Supreme Court intervened and sought removal of encroachments from forest land, termed ecologically fragile by environmentalists.

The bench of Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari reiterated its directions of February 19, 2020, and April 5, 2021, and directed the municipal corporation and the state government to remove all encroachments from the forest land within six weeks. It asked the municipal commissioner and the state’s forest secretary to file affidavits of compliance and said their reports on removal of unauthorised houses on forest land would be verified by an independent team.

It told counsel for Haryana government, Ruchi Kohli, that the state must take appropriate steps to implement SC orders failing which the state chief secretary would be made answerable, if necessary. It said the Faridabad SP will be personally responsible for providing adequate forces to facilitate corporation officials to carry out the demolition drive. The SC posted the matter for further hearing on July 27.

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