On Fulfilment of all conditions by the user of land as laid down, the Central government to send approval under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980: Bombay High Court

When the petitioners have a no-objection letter from the concerned authority and have fulfilled the required conditions laid down for the development of a part of the land that falls under the category of the forest, the central government is to send approval under section 2 of the Forest Act, 1980. This judgment has been passed in the case of Pecry Jamshed Driver and Anr. Vs. State of Maharashtra Revenue and Forest Department and Ors. [WPST/4416/2021] by a Double Bench consisting of Hon’ble Shri Justice S. J. Kathawalla and Hon’ble Shri Justice Milind N. Jadhav.

The facts of the case are that the petitioners are the owners of the land in village Aundhol, district Pune. They purchased the said land in 1998 by a registered sale deed and also conducted the requisite due diligence. They also obtained an extract that showed that the land was neither a private forest nor a reserved forest in the revenue records. In 2003 the deputy conservator of forest asked the petitioner to produce a reference under section 35(1) of the Maharashtra private forest act as to why shouldn’t be evicted from the said land.

While the petitioner filed an application to the SDO under section 22A of the Act for restoration of land, they were given the same on the condition that the said land is a forest, they would need the central government’s permission to carry out non – forestry work and the order would be effective only after the government approval. The petitioner submitted a proposal for the development of a forest house, drinking water, septic tank, steel gate, and small water tank in 0.056HA out of the said land under section 2 of the Forest Act, 1980. After a fresh proposal was sent by the state government to the government of India in 2017, it received its approval in 2018. However, it also stated that without the formal approval of the Central government the land shall not pass to the user. Based on the letter dated 2007 by the state government and High Court Order the Central Government withdrew its approval.

The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay opined that the only dispute condition no. (viii) laid down which made the state government responsible to college the net Present value of the forest land being converted from the user agency and the petitioners had deposited the same. Furthermore, the petitioner had satisfied all the conditions laid down and it is the central government that has to give the approval under section 2 of the Forest Act, 1980.

The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay held that “Respondent no. 2 is directed to consider the compliance proposal dated 27.03.2019 sent by the Chief Conservator of Forests, Pune Forest Circle, Pune Through the Addl. Chief Conservator of Forests and Nodal Officer, Nagpur, Maharashtra State for Stage 2 approval..” and ordered the central government to “pass appropriate orders within a period of 16 weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order and inform the same to all concerned.”

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