Madhya Pradesh HC directs Forest Dept, Collector to address grievances raised in PIL against encroachment of Gwalior Protected Forest Land

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The PIL sought the restoration of the entire ecology of the Gwalior Protected Forest, Susera beat.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday directed the Forest Department and Collector to look into the grievance raised in a Public Interest Litigation plea has been filed seeking direction for the clearance of 400+ hectares of encroachment on the Gwalior Protected Forest land.

A bench of Justice Rohit Arya and Justice Ramesh Phadke after hearing the submissions of Advocate Yash Jain appearing in person, noted, "Due to encroachment, the protected forest area is being exploited illegally causing damage to the forest and ecological imbalance."

The order has been passed in a public interest litigation plea seeking clearance of the Protected Forest compartment no. 1 and 2 areas of the Susera beat of Gwalior Forest division, and the restoration of the entire ecology of the Susera beat.

Jain informed the bench that representation in this regard has been made to the Forest department, however, no action has been taken in this regard.

In view of the above the bench disposed of the plea while directing that "the respondents No.2 (Chief Conservator of Forest), 3 (District Forest Officer) & 4 (Collector) shall be well advised to look into the grievance of the petitioner as pointed out in the representation and decide the same with promptitude."

The plea submitted that as per the answers received by way of an RTI filed by Jain, the Forest Department of the Gwalior Division informed that the total area in the Protected Forest (PF) Compartments amounts to 590.477 hectares of which 104.556 hectares of Protected Forest area has been encroached by the encroachers.

However, as per Jain's plea, after he compared the maps of the PF Compartments area of the years 2003 and 2022, it was very clearly visible that the green Forest area has been occupied by the residencies and there was a continuous increase in the volume of agricultural land and Pakka houses replacing the area of the Protected Forest.

Jain referred to the verse mentioned in the Matsya Puran:

“Dashkoop Samavaethi Dashvapi Samshadab
Dasbed Samahputra dash putra Samo Drama” 

This means: ‘One pond is equal to ten wells, and one son is equal to ten ponds, and one tree is equal to ten sons’. In the later years, Manusmriti also declares that cutting off trees is an offence, Jain stated in his plea.

The plea mentioned that after a thorough assessment of the Map through Google Earth from 2003 to 2022, Jain found that the majority of the Forest land area had been encroached in a short tenure of 19 years.

It has also been alleged that these encroachers are being supplied with water and electricity by the authorities as well. "Consequently, these resources are being regularly exploited by these encroachers. Moreover, the information officer has provided no information on the steps taken to eradicate this comfort position from the encroachers," the plea read. 

Case Title: Yash Jain Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.