Friday, August 03, 2012

Undo Maldharis' forest land sale: HC

Undo Maldharis' forest land sale: HC
Times of India

The Gujarat high court asked the state government to take immediate action about land sold by Maldharis to others, in and around the lion's abode, Gir sanctuary.

A division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Mohinder Pal ordered the administration to implement a 2010 high court decree to conduct an inquiry and follow due process of law in connection with nearly 292 plots, now occupied by non-Maldharis, without delay.

With this, the forest department may snatch the land back from the present occupants.

The Maldharis or Nessdharis were given land in accordance with new tenure rules, to relocate them outside the sanctuary area. Their rehabilitation was, however, still on forest land. After some time, many of them sold the land to agriculturists and went back to the sanctuary. The state government too made it easy to buy the green patches on the Gir forest border, by mandating just prior approval from the district collector.

In no time, lavish farmhouses and resorts dotted the reserve's periphery. One such plot, which was sold thrice, was purchased by Anil Chudasama, who came into conflict with forest and revenue departments. He moved HC and the entire episode came under judicial scrutiny.

Justice M R Shah appointed advocate Amit Panchal as amicus curiae, who visited the place and submitted his report.

The court was alarmed at the use of land, which was originally given to Maldharis for rehabilitation.

The judge refused Chudasama the right to till the land, and directed forest and revenue departments to hold necessary inquiries in all cases and take steps so the very purpose for land allotment to Maldharis is not frustrated, and land in the Gir Sanctuary is not purchased by non-Maldharis, or other persons for non-forest activities which violate provisions of Indian Forest and Wildlife Protection Act.

Since Chudasama's case was rejected, he filed an appeal before a division bench. This order has stayed since then. But now, the bench asked the single judge to decide Chudasma's case afresh. The court has stayed action against Chudasama, but has also directed the government to set things right in connection with other sale deeds.

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