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CJM issues directions in contravention of DB’s judgments on Patnitop forests

HC takes serious note, stays entire proceedings

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 9: In a bizarre case, court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Udhampur has issued series of directions in contravention to the judgments of the Division Bench of State High Court, which otherwise are aimed at protection of forests and environment in the health resort of Patnitop.
Taking serious note of this aberration, the State High Court has stayed the orders of the CJM while dealing with the petition filed by the State Government, which has termed the orders of the CJM as flagrant violation of various laws and the directions of the highest court of the State as well as of the Apex Court of the country.
The case before the Court of Sub-Judge (CJM) Udhampur was that a reputed hotel in Patnitop filed a civil suit through Ramesh Chander in the year 1997 claiming his right over the pathway actually belonging to the Forest Department. The suit came to be decreed on November 30, 2012 in favour of the hotelier.
In pursuance to this decree, the hotelier started raising construction of RCC pillars upon the suit pathway on August 8, 2017 for the purpose of installing the sign board but the officers of the Forest Department restrained the hotelier from doing so on various grounds particularly the judgments delivered by the Division Bench in 2006 and 2007 whereby removal of sign boards/hoardings and demarcation of forest land in Patnitop was ordered to prevent encroachment.
Aggrieved over the action of Forest Department the hotelier moved an execution petition before the CJM Udhampur, who issued directions for execution of decree on various grounds. In the order, the CJM observed, “in my ex-facie understanding constructing the pillars alongside the road does not create ecological balance as the decree holders are intending to erect the sigh board of the hotel”, adding “there is no substance in the arguments of the judgment debtor that the construction falls within the ambit of the forest land”.
However, the State through Forest Department challenged the order of the CJM Udhampur mentioning, “judgment and decree is contrary to the directions issued by the Division Bench where it prohibited installation of sign-boards”, adding “in view of the directions passed by the Division Bench, the judgment and decree of the CJM is null and void”.
“It is also admitted position of the decree holder that he had started construction of RCC pillars on the land in front of his hotel which is demarcated forest land as such this is in clear contravention to the provisions of the Forest Act, 1987”, Additional Advocate General Rohit Kapoor argued before Justice Alok Aradhe, adding “the act of construction of pillars is in complete violation to the prohibition contained in Section 6 of the Forest Act”.
Stating that by raising the pillars and making an attempt to put a sign board in pursuance to the orders of CJM Udhampur the hotel owner has committed contempt of the directions of the Division Bench dated February 20, 2007, the AAG drew the attention of Justice Aradhe towards the DB order dated April 4, 2006 regarding removal of sign boards and hoardings from the forest area of Patnitop and order dated February 20, 2007 regarding prevention of further encroachment in the Patnitop area.
“There was no jurisdiction with the court of CJM to have issued directions to allow the hotel owner to raise pillars and put sign board in view of directions of the highest court of the State”, he said, adding “also the raising of pillars is prohibited by statutory provisions of the Forest Act”.
Reiterating that construction activities have been prohibited under J&K Forest Act, the State submitted before the High Court that this has been done after scientific investigations that cement structures are directly responsible for causing disruption in the natural recharge of ground water by preventing the rain water percolation through top soil.
The satellite imageries of Patnitop taken by the Department of Environment and Remote Sensing were also placed before the High Court to justify wanton destruction of forest cover during the past 15 years even after directions on the subject from the Division Bench.
After going through the petition of the State, Justice Alok Aradhe directed that no further proceedings shall be taken against the petitioner (State) pursuant to the impugned order dated November 1, 2017 and further proceedings before the Executing Court shall remain stayed till next date of hearing.

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