NGT holds land owner responsible for felling of trees; plea of ignorance not a material defence

National Green Tribunal: The Bench of Justice Jawad Rahim and Justice Bikram Singh gave an order on the relief sought on the grounds of violation of the provisions of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900.

Applicant has stated that there has been erratic felling of the tree and construction of kaccha road in a large part of the forest area which is important wildlife corridor and frequented by wild animals including leopards from Asola Sanctuary. The above stated information is well known to the Forest Department but no timely action has been taken on their part.

Respondent 5 which is a contesting respondent in this issue stated that there are no trees in the area which he owns except Mexican Mexquite tree species also known as “Vilayati Kikar”. Union of India made a statement in Lok Sabha that vilayati kikar is replaced with other plants. Respondent 5 also states that felling of trees was done by some unknown offenders and contended that the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 is not in force anymore as it was applicable for only a period of 25 years, therefore he cannot be accused of that.

The material defence noted in this whole scenario is that  Respondent 5 did not deny any of the stated allegations but contended that some unknown offenders were involved in the felling of trees for which a criminal complaint had also been filed and further the Forest Department was restraining him from entering his own land as they considered him to be one of the accused too.

The Court observed that by examining the legal position and the various FIR’s in the name of respondent alleging him to be one of the offenders by the Forest Department, it is difficult to accept the plea of ignorance as he had the legal duty being the owner of the stated land to ensure that no illegal activity should have been committed upon, which makes the point of who did it irrelevant and therefore the complaints filed against Respondent 5 to be continued, as the onus is totally on Respondent 5. [Lt. Col. (Retd.) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi v. Union of India, Original Application No. 208/2016 along with M.A. NO. 403/2016, decided on 7-12-2017]

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 − seven =