New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday issued notices to the Centre, Delhi government, police chief and Asaram Bapu`s trust on a petition seeking direction to demolish an alleged illegal `ashram` constructed by the self-styled godman in the ridge area here.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar issued notices on the petition seeking demolition of the `ashram` and initiation of criminal proceedings against the trustees of the Sant Shree Asharamji Trust.
Notices were also issued to Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Urban Development, the Municipal Corporations and the Ridge Management Board.
The order came on a petition filed by one Sanjay Kumar.
Petitioner`s advocate Gaurav Bansal told the bench that the Asaram`s trust has illegally constructed an `ashram` and other structures in the Central Ridge area here despite the notification issued by the Delhi government in May 1994, ridge area declaring it as "reserved forest" in terms of the provisions of the Indian Forest Act.
The petitioner said he recently learnt from a media report that the Asaram Ji Trust has constructed an illegal `ashram` at Karol Bagh in Central Ridge.
He said the media report stated that "eight years ago, the Ministry of Urban Development had itself acknowledged that the trust did illegal encroachment on a large portion of land situated within central ridge...."
He said the authorities concerned even served an eviction notice to the Trust but in vain.
"There is strong apprehension in the minds of the general public that the Ridge Management Board has allowed the development of land against the procedure established by law...," the petition said.
72-year-old Asaram Bapu was arrested on rape charges in August and is in judicial custody. The petition also alleged that the Ridge Management Board has not utilised funds to the tune of several crores of rupees which were only meant for conservation of the ridge area in the national capital.
The petitioner said "in the last two decades, the central ridge area has become host of several temples, roads and structures and there might be several illegal encroachments".
"It is pertinent to mention that once an area is declared as a reserved forest area, any non-forest activity will be prohibited except with the specific permission of the competent authority and the same has to be granted within the four corners of the law of the land," he said.
The central ridge covers 864 hectares of area and the responsibility of its maintenance and protection was transferred by the Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation to the Department of Forests of Delhi government, the petition said and referred to a 1985 Supreme Court judgement wherein it said that the ridge should be maintained in its pristine glory.
As per the Environment Protection and Control Committee and Centrally Empowered Committee, no forest activity is allowed within the ridge area.
The petition stated that it is the constitutional duty of every citizen to protect the environment and natural resources of the country.