The apex court asked the state to not amend the Punjab Land Preservation Act that “favours builders”
The Supreme Court on March 1, 2019 came down heavily on the Haryana government for diluting laws protecting the Aravalli hills, according to media reports. Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta even warned of contempt proceedings.
The Manohar Lal Khattar government pushed an amendment to Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), despite opposition in the Legislative Assembly on February 27, 2019. It effectively strips protection under the act to areas under master plans of cities such as Gurugram, Faridabad, Nuh, Mahendragarh and Rewari.
The apex court, however, ordered the government to not implement the amendment and reportedly said it was aware the move was to “favour the builders” and found it shocking that the government “went ahead despite our warning”.
The court chastised the Haryana government for destroying forest. The Aravallis, one of the world’s oldest mountain chains, keeps the Thar desert from encroaching into Delhi and nearby territories. Of late, however, rampant construction and illegal mining have made the range vulnerable and pressured its forest cover.
Unusual dust and thunderstorms, sometimes accompanied by hailstorms, ravaged Northern India — especially UP and Rajasthan — last year. Increasing and intensifying dust storms are a symptom of extended desertification.
The only way to protect the national capital territory and its neighbourhood from such storms is to restore the Aravallis, especially the forest covers of its gaps that are more vulnerable in the face of desertification.
On the contrary, illegal mining has opened up new gaps even as 31 hills and hillocks have gone missing, for which the SC pulled up the Rajasthan government on October 2018.
The Haryana side of the Aravallis has been a hotbed for urbanisation. Faridabad, Gurugram, Ballabhgarh and Bahadurgarh are part of the National Capital Region. The first two cities, especially, have seen a boom in their economy in the last two decades, attracting thousands of migrants and, in turn, fuelling construction at a rapid pace.
The urbanisation has gradually encroached agricultural land as well as parts of wilderness as newer living and working spaces were developed. On March 1, the apex court was hearing the case of one such colony, Kant Enclave in Faridabad — which would have been legitimised by the amendment — when it pulled up the government. The “legislature is not supreme,” it said.
The Indian Constitution places the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary on equal footing.
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