National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006, would not be applicable to forest land: Delhi High Court
The Delhi High Court has passed a judgment on 24-04-2021 in the case of Bari Bhati And Choti Bhati Resident Welfare Association And Ors vs Govt. NCT of Delhi W.P.(C) 11079/2019, CM Nos.45672-673/2019 & 48686-687/2019. Justice Jayant Nath dismissed the petition.
FACTS OF THE CASE
It is the case of the petitioners that the occupants of Extended Lal Dora Abadi of Village Bhati are all original inhabitants who have descended from a common ancestor. The village Bhati was allegedly settled by one Sh.Garib Ram in 1620 AD. The inhabitants of the village Bhati are of Gurjar tribe which is a traditional herder community engaged in cow-herding and sheep rearing. Only a small portion of the land of village Bhati was cultivated to grow grain for sale/consumption. The economy of the village was primarily dependent upon forest produce as cattle and sheep were dependent upon forest produce. Since time immemorial, the lands of revenue estate of village Bhati were recorded in the name of Shamilat Deh (i.e. a body comprising of the proprietors of the Village). Most of the land was used for pasture and grazing as it was hilly land consisting of shrubs and small trees. It is stated that after the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 was enacted, the Shamilat lands vested in the Gaon Sabha and the cultivated lands were declared as Bhumidhari of the tillers/villagers.
This village is the last village situated on the border of Delhi adjacent to the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary and it continues to have the status of a forest village. It is stated that over years population of inhabitants of village Bhati multiplied. Therefore, there was no alternative for the villagers but to build their houses on the common lands situated adjoining to the Old Lal Dora Abadi. It is claimed that this was a natural organic growth of village abadi and the residents of village abadi only consisted of the original inhabitants of the village. It is claimed that Extended Lal Dora Abadi of the village Bhati is under process of regularisation as it is to be treated as natural extension of village abadi.
It is also claimed that village Bhati is a unique village in Delhi which is situated in a forested area of Aravali hills and all villagers enjoy the status of “Other Traditional Forest Dwellers” as defined in The Schedule Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The petitioners and other villagers have a right to reside in the forest area and to utilize the forest produce, which is protected by law. It is stated that ignoring ground realities, documents were prepared by the respondents showing that the aforesaid land was handed over to the Forest Department, GNCTD pursuant to the Gazette Notification dated 02.04.1996. It is stated that factually the Forest Department took over possession of vacant Gaon Sabha lands for purpose of forestation and erected barbed wire fences for boundary walls leaving intact the abovesaid abadi lands possessed by the petitioners/villagers. It is reiterated that the petitioners are descendants of the settlers of the village and therefore, have a natural right over the common land and resources of their village.
In this case court took reliance from the case of M.C.Mehta v. Union of India, W.P.(C) 4677/1985 and MC Mehta vs. Union of India, (1996) 3 SCALE 20, where supreme court held that “that the area is a ridge area and has to be preserved. No cultivation or any type of construction can be permitted in the area”. The Supreme Court requested the concerned committee to reconsider the question and issue a notification under Section 154 of the DLR Act. Subsequently, on 03.03.1996 a direction was issued to Govt. of NCT of Delhi to issue the necessary notification clarifying that though it is not a reserved forest it happens to be a forest and cannot be utilized in any manner in view of the prohibitions contained under the Forest Conservation Act. The court reiterated that the notification under Section 154 of the DLR Act must be issued. The high court has also taken reference from the case of Bhagat Singh vs Union of India Hence, somewhat identical pleas as are being raised in the present petition were dismissed by the court. Court stated that Gaon Sabha land is not meant for individuals for their enjoyment. Such claim as the petitioners have raised herein claiming inherent rights to reside in the extended village abadi being allegedly original inhabitants of the village were rejected.
Court clearly stated that, the pleas raised by the petitioners claiming rights to continue to illegally occupy the land in question which vests with the Forest Department on the ground of having built a structure on the said land decades ago is a misplaced and misdirected plea. Same is without merit. And the petition is hence dismissed.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY ABHINAV CHATURVEDI
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