By Accommodation Times News Service
The state forest department yesterday has decided to withdraw the review petition of Supreme Court order to regularize the 5lakh odd homes on 6.4 lakh acre private forest land in Mumbai and Thane.
The state department decision to withdraw the review petition, thereby saving lakhs of homes from being demolished, comes nearly three months after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on June 19 asked forest principal secretary Praveensinh Pardesi to conduct a probe into how the plea was filed before the SC on June 5. The probe report is not known but the state’s decision to withdraw the petition is vital to the government, which would have had to pay a heavy price in the assembly polls had its plea cost lakhs of homes in the green belt. The state move will finally bring a closure to the case and give a relief to the resident who lives in uncertainly.
The dispute over the swathes of land across the state, including areas in Kandivli, Virar, Thane, Mulund, Bhandup, Nahur, Mahul, Borivli, Ambernath and Badlapur, began way back in 1957 when the forest department asked residents there to prove that their plots were not on private forest land. But over years, no hear ing took place and even the corporations continued collecting property taxes from residents there; the BMC even declared the area as residential. But in 2001, directed by the Bombay high court, the state conducted a recce and declared the 6.4 acres as forest land. After the forest department served notices on residents for violation of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, they moved the HC. Disposing of a bunch of writ petitions, the HC in March 2008 observed that the houses on the private forest land were illegal.
The residents and also a group of builders, whose projects there were stuck over years, moved the SC; subsequently on February 1, the apex court set aside the HC order and held that the forest department could not demolish the houses built on the green belt by merely tagging the area as “private forest land“. But the forest department, led by Congress leader Patangrao Kadam, on June 5 filed a review petition on the SC order.
“We were stunned by the forest department’s decision. We brought it to the notice of Chavan that if the review petition is not withdrawn, the Congress will have to pay a heavy price in the ensuing elections. We also brought the residents’ plight to the notice of Congress president Sonia Gandhi,” said former Congress legislator Charan Singh Sapra who approached the CM. Chavan then ordered a probe into who authorized the forest department to file a review petition. “Now that the government has taken the decision, we expect the petition to be withdrawn in a day or two,” Sapra said.