By Ashok Kini
This article was published on LiveLaw.in website. Read it here.
“The extent of violation of the notification dated 18th August, 1992 is quite frightening and one can only imagine the phenomenal environmental and ecological damage caused to the area by the applicants.”
The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ordered the State of Haryana to demolish any construction made in Kant Enclave after 18th August, 1992.
The bench comprising of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed that Kant Enclave is a forest or is a forest land or is required to be treated as a forest or forest land and absolutely no construction activity could have been permitted on it with effect from 18th August, 1992, the date of notification under Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900.
The bench was considering an application filed in MC Mehta vs. Union of India, regarding Kant Enclave, and the issue was whether construction carried out by the R. Kant & Co. on this land is in contravention of the notification dated 18th August, 1992 issued under the provisions of the PLP Act.
Coming down heavily on the State of Haryana, the bench said: “The construction activity carried out by the applicant R. Kant & Co. is clearly in violation of the notification dated 18th August, 1992 and in blatant defiance of orders passed by this Court from time to time. Unfortunately, the Town & Country Planning Department of the State of Haryana has been supporting the illegalities of the applicant despite strong resistance from the Forest Department of the State of Haryana. There is no doubt that at the end of the day, the State of Haryana comes out in very poor light and must be held accountable for its conflicting and self-destructive stand taken in spite of affidavits filed by the Chief Secretary of the State of Haryana from time to time supporting the Forest Department.”
The Court also said that there has been a complete lack of any concern for the environmental and ecological degradation carried out in the Aravalli hills by influential colonizers and what appears to be a very strong mining lobby in Haryana, the damage caused to the Aravalli hills is irreversible.
It further remarked: “It is not only the future generations that have to pay a heavy price for this environmental degradation, but even the present generation is paying a heavy price for the environmental and ecological degradation inasmuch as there is an acute water shortage in the area as prophesied by the Central Ground Water Board. In addition, what was once a popular tourist destination, namely, Badkal Lake has now vanished and the entire water body has become bone dry. What are the more severe consequences that will be felt in the years to come, only time and nature will tell.”
The bench also said that these violations could not have happened without the knowledge of the State of Haryana and its officers who permitted blatant disregard of the rule of law despite affidavits filed by the state. It remarked: “The extent of violation of the notification dated 18th August, 1992 is quite frightening and one can only imagine the phenomenal environmental and ecological damage caused to the area by the applicants. This could not have happened without the knowledge of the State of Haryana and its officers who permitted blatant disregard of the rule of law despite affidavits of the Chief Secretary of the State of Haryana. The rule of law seems to have broken down in Haryana and become the rule of men only to favour the applicants.”
As a relief to those who were conveyed land, but did not make any constructions, the bench ordered R. Kant & Co. to fully refund their investment along with interest at 18% per annum payable from the date of the investment
As regards, those who constructed buildings in the land conveyed to them by the R. Kant & Co., the bench ordered compensation as follows: “As far as the cost of construction is concerned, we tentatively quantify it at ₹50 lakhs. This will be paid to those who constructed after 18th August, 1992 and whose construction is directed to be demolished. The quantified amount will be paid, in equal proportion, by R. Kant & Co. and the Town & Country Planning Department of the State of Haryana. The quantified amount is directed to be paid on or before 31st December, 2018.”
The bench also asked R. Kant & Co. to ₹5 crores to rehabilitation of damaged areas. “The damage caused to the Aravalli hills, as already noted, is irreversible. However, perhaps some of the damage could be remedied; at least we hope so.”
The court also directed Chief Secretary of the State of Haryana to ensure compliance with these orders on or before 31st December, 2018.