Encroachment on forest land: Rajasthan HC asks officials to appear before it

Expressing its displeasure over the authorities not acting upon its orders for clearing encroachment on forest land, the Rajasthan High Court has said the attitude of the state has shaken its conscience and directed the officers concerned to appear before it during the next hearing.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) on the matter, a division bench of Justices P S Bhati and R P Soni said the action of the state amounted to contempt of the court.

“But restraining itself from issuing contempt notices to the state for now, this court directs the concerned officials of the concerned departments to remain present before this court on the next date to apprise this court regarding the compliance of the various orders passed by this court on earlier occasions,” the bench stated.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on March 5.

“This court is conscious of the seriousness of the issue where the Forest Department is concerned as the Hon’ble Apex Court has time and again, in plethora of cases, laid down that these are the precious assets of the nation…and the State being custodian of such resources cannot turn such blind eye even when the court is giving them regular directions to act upon,” it stated.

The judged said this attitude of the state has shocked their conscience.

The court stated that it will consider issuing a contempt notice to the state on the next date of hearing, depending upon the material brought before it to satisfy the compliance of various orders passed by it earlier.

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“In a democratic process, the head of the government may change but the government always remains at all times and the executive is bound to comply with the orders in the right earnest,” it said.

The court also turned down the plea of defence counsels to adjourn the matter, citing difficulties in administration. “It could have been a reasonable excuse to adjourn the matter, but not in a case where continuous directions since 2021 have not been complied with,” it stated.

The court has directed the officers concerned to explain at length the circumstances in which such orders have been complied with or not complied with, and submit affidavits containing factual aspects.

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