HC orders removal of encroachments on forest land in Ramanathapuram

Madurai

All encroachments of forest lands have to be necessarily removed by the officials concerned even without the orders of the court, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court observed and directed the removal of encroachment from forest land in Ramanathapuram district.

A Division Bench of Justices T.S. Sivagnanam and S. Ananthi observed that as long as the lands stand declared as reserved forest, the plea raised by the petitioners cannot be entertained. They have to be necessarily treated as encroachers of forest lands, the court said.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by the residents of Rameswaram. They claimed that they developed dry lands in the region into coconut groves. They constructed houses and also obtained electricity connection, they said.

Their claim for patta was rejected by the authorities and a notice was issued to them to show cause as to why they should not be evicted for being in occupation of forest lands. An order was passed by the authorities stating that they were liable to be evicted from forest lands.

The petitioners challenged the order stating that it was unreasonable. In its response, the State government submitted that the petitioners were encroachers of the forest land and only after affording a reasonable opportunity to them the orders were passed by the authorities.

The court took note of the fact that the lands had already been notified as reserved forest as early as 1993 and a notification was published in the District Gazette. In such circumstances, the plea raised by the petitioners were wholly untenable, the judges said.

The judges said that there was no error in the decision taken by the forest officials directing the petitioners to remove the encroachments and as long as the lands continue to remain notified as forest lands, the plea raised by the petitioners have to be rejected as devoid of substance. The court dismissed the batch of petitions.

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