01 March 2019
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday took a dim view of the Haryana Assembly amending the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900 taking away the protection to the forest cover in Aravali and exposing nearly 28,000 acres of land in Gurugram and Faridabad to private builders and land sharks.
Asking the Haryana government not to act on the amended provisions on the ground and describing it as a misadventure by the state government to overcome its judgment, the bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta said: "We were apprehending that something of the sort would happen."
Observing "legislature is not supreme" and "you are not above law", Justice Mishra described as shocking that the state was trying to destroy the forest cover.
"It is shocking that you are trying to destroy the forest cover," Justice Mishra said as senior counsel Ranjit Kumar who is amicus curiae in the matter informed the court that the Haryana Assembly has amended the PLPA, 1900, taking away the protection to the forest cover in the Aravali ranges in the state.
Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the Haryana Assembly on February 27, amending the PLPA, 1900.
The court's strong observations slamming the Haryana government came in the course of the hearing on the compliance of its order of September 11, 2018.
While the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed by the state assembly, the opposition comprising the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal alleged that the BJP government in Haryana was trying to favour private builders and land sharks.
The top court had on September 11, 2018 ordered Haryana to demolish concrete structures raised in Kant Enclave in Faridabad as it is a forest land and no construction activity should have been allowed there.
The bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur (since retired) and Justice Deepak Gupta had observed that constructions in Kant Enclave have caused "irreversible" damage to the Aravali hills.
An August 18, 1992 notification issued under the provisions of the PLPA, 1900 prohibited activities like cutting of trees, construction of any dwelling units, farmhouses, sheds or community centres in and around the area.
"Any construction done after August 18, 1992 is clearly illegal and contrary to law and must be demolished as recommended by the Central Empowered Committee... We direct the state of Haryana to demolish the illegal and unauthorised constructions. The demolition should be completed on or before December 31, 2018," the court had said in its September 11, 2018 order.
The top court in its September 11 order had directed the builder R. Kant & Co and the Town and Country Planning Department of Haryana to fully compensate the entire amount with 18 per cent interest from the date of investment, paid by those who were allotted plots in Kant Enclave but did not carry out any construction.
The court had ordered payment of Rs 50 lakh to 33 house owners who constructed buildings on the land conveyed to them by R. Kant & Co. The amount of Rs 50 lakh was to be paid to each of those who had undertaken the construction and it was to be equally shared by the builder and the Haryana government.
However, the top court in its November 28, 2018, order enhanced the compensation to be paid by the Haryana government, directing it to pay Rs 50 lakh each to 33 house owners whose flats were to go in pursuance to the September 11 judgment.
The builder was also asked to deposit Rs 5 crore in the Aravali Rehabilitation Fund within one month or before October 31 for rehabilitation of the Aravali hills.