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Mandatory to recompense the loss of forest land to the aggrieved: Karnataka High Court

It is compulsory for the Government to compensate and rehabilitate those individuals, from whom land has been acquired by the Government in order to execute a Government Project. A division bench comprising of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice JM Khazi, while adjudicating the matter Sri KA Ravi Chengappa v. The Principal Secretary; [WRIT PETITION No.12038/2020 (KLR-RES)], dealt with the issue of compensation to the victims of land grabbing by the Government.

The petitioners in the above case contended that an extent of land had not been physically handed over by the revenue department to the petitioners. The case devolves around the fact that, while constructing the Harangi Dam, the State Government had released 900 acres of land from the nearby forest area. As per a government order, in order to rehabilitate the persons who had lost their lands on account of the construction of Harangi Dam/Reservoir Project, a certain amount of land of the Revenue Department was to be handed over to the Forest Department to distribute it amongst those individuals claiming rehabilitation of their land. The grievance of the petitioners ventilated in this Public Interest Litigation is that the government order had not been given effect and they had not yet received their share of the land, despite there being a lapse of four decades.

A legal notice was issued to the respondents on behalf of the petitioners for compliance of the aforesaid government order. The learned counsel appearing for the petitioners submitted that all that the petitioners are seeking is, the said transfer be completed by entering the name of the Forest Department in the official records and by taking all incidental and ancillary steps for completely handing over the control of the said lands to the Forest Department by the Revenue Department. The counsel also submitted that even after lapse of over four decades and nearing half a century, the respondent-State and its Authorities have not given effect to their own orders. The learned counsel appearing for the respondents stated that there has been no formal handing over of the lands to the Forest Department, inasmuch as name of the Forest Department has not been indicated in the official record, but the Forest Department is at liberty to take charge of the said extent of lands and in that regard appropriate directions may be issued.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts directed the respondents to implement the contested government order within a period of one month from the date of receipt of this order. The Bench hence stated that “We have considered the submissions of the learned counsel for the respective parties and we find that the object and purpose of issuance of the Government Order must be given effect to and fulfilled, inasmuch as in order to recompense the loss of the forest land due to the construction of the Harangi Dam/Reservoir Project, the State Government in its wisdom transferred revenue lands to the Forest Department. Ultimately, the loss of forest land for the purpose of construction of the project led to the State Government to compensate the same and the extent of lands were transferred to the Forest Department, but unless and until the said lands are indicated as forest lands in the official records, the same would not acquire the status of forest lands.”

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