Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (July 7, 2023)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 07 July 2023

Forest Rights Act

The Supreme Court July 5, 2023 said the right of the forest inhabitants for claims to be heard by the forest officer is not limited to certain recognised forest communities.

“To enjoy possession of any land notified under Section 4 of the Forest Act is not only limited to Adivasi communities and other forest-dwelling communities, but is also based on proof of residence, date of original possession, etc. If the right to inhabit the said lands is not restricted only to certain communities, how can the right to be heard on such claims be restricted to the same,” said the bench of justices Krishna Murari and Ahsanuddin Amanullah. 

The bench set aside the order passed by the High Court of Allahabad February 4, 2013.

The appellants are the bhoomidars (landowners) of the subject land and are in possession of the same, they said. The said lands, they added, is being used by them for agricultural purposes since a permanent lease was executed in their favour by the then zamindar in 1952. 

Part of the subject land, including the land in possession of the appellants, was declared as reserved forest and the other part of the said land was subject to a notification under Section 4 of the Forest Act for declaration as reserved forest, they added. 

Such a declaration of the said land initiated an eviction drive of the local inhabitants, and against this, on the basis of a letter received from Banwasi Seva Ashram, a writ petition was instituted in the SC regarding the claim of the local inhabitants.

The Supreme Court vide order November 20, 1986, directed the formation of a high powered committee for the purpose of adjudicating upon the claims of persons over the said disputed land, and subsequently, further directed the claims to be heard by the Forest Settlement Officer.

The forest settlement officer held that the said land has been in possession of the appellants “even prior to 1385 Fasli (a harvest-based calendar) and thus, have a rightful claim over the said land”. 

The respondent forest department filed a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad and the High Court directed the eviction of the appellants.

Meghalaya coal mining

The High Court of Meghalaya, July 6, 2023, directed the director-general of police, Assam to take steps to protect complainants / petitioners from “kingpins” involved in illegal coal mining and operation of illegal coke plants in Meghalaya.

Since the petitioners reside in Assam, the HC directed the director-general of police, Assam to take appropriate steps “through the the officers-in-charge of the local police stations and the Superintendents of Police of the relevant districts to ensure the safety and security of the petitioners, their family members and lawyers representing such petitioners”.

The advocate-general, appearing for the state of Meghalaya, submitted that communication had been made with the police authorities in Assam to take appropriate steps against persons based in the state who may be the masterminds behind the illegal operation of coal mining and coke oven plants in Meghalaya.

“It is unfortunate that the machinery in the State, be it the administration or the police, have been lacking in taking appropriate steps to arrest the illegal mining of coal in the State despite orders in such regard having been passed by the National Green Tribunal since or about 2016 and affirmed by the Supreme Court by 2019,” said the bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and justices W Diengdoh and HS Thangkhiew.

Solid waste management in Hisar

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) July 7, 2023, directed a joint committee to look into the matter of solid waste management in Hisar, Haryana.

The NGT called for submission of a report from the committee consisting of the collector, Hisar and a representative from the Haryana State Pollution Control Board. The committee was directed to visit the place and submit the factual and action taken report within four weeks.

According to the applicant, Sandeep Kumar Gupta, household waste is collected without segregation. Wet and dry waste as well as domestic hazardous waste is being collected as mixed waste. The garbage disposal vehicles do not reach all households as a result of which, the citizens are forced to dump the garbage in the open, the applicant said.

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