The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to halt the demolition of over 10,000 residential houses at Khori Gaon in Faridabad district, Haryana, for encroachment on forest land.
A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari told a counsel appearing for villagers, “We want our forest land to be cleared. We have given enough time, if you want to continue it is at your risk. This is forest land and not any other land.” The top court passed the order on a PIL seeking stay on the demolition of residential houses.
Advocate Aparna Bhat, representing a petitioner, argued that even as the hearing proceeds, forceful eviction was taking place. The bench replied, “Yes let them do it.” Bhat contended that at least a temporary shelter should be provided for the children who will be evicted during the pandemic. The bench said it is up to the Haryana government to examine the issue.
The top court said in its opinion, no indulgence is required to be shown by it at this stage and permitted the petitioners to produce documents at the municipal corporation concerned. The bench emphasized that people had enough opportunity to vacate the forest land after February 2020.
The bench noted that petitioners were obligated to provide documents to come under the rehabilitation scheme, which they have failed to do. “We have recorded the submission that clearance of unlawful encroachment on forest land will be carried out as per due process of law,” observed the bench.
The top court said the corporation and state government may proceed on the basis of the commitment given to it on earlier occasion and in order dated June 7, 2021.
Haryana government submitted that encroachers are throwing stones on officials, the bench that no order was required and the authorities “knew what to do”. The bench reiterated that the pendency of the proceedings in the court will not come in the way of clearing the encroachments.
The PIL sought directions to the authorities to follow the rehabilitation procedure before conducting any demolition drive, and also provide temporary shelter to the evicted slum dwellers in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
On June 7, the bench had said the corporation should remove all encroachments on forest land not later than 6 weeks and report compliance under the signature of chief secretary and secretary of Haryana Forest Department. The top court has posted the matter for further hearing on July 27.