New Delhi: National Green Tribunal today prohibited dumping of debris in reserved forest area of the ridge here and directed the DDA and the Public Works Department (PWD) to remove the rubble thrown there.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar observed that non-forest activity in reserved forest area of ridge is not permissible and any person found dumping rubble there will be charged Rs 25,000 per truck for removal of debris on the basis of the principle of polluter pays.
"All without exception are hereby prohibited from throwing any rubble into the reserved forest area (of Rajokri) in terms of the provision of the notification of May 24, 1994. All the debris that has been collected which ought to have been removed by the authorities now shall be removed by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and PWD.
If any person is found to be throwing any debris in the ridge area - the subject matter of the present application - police authorities shall not only prevent him from throwing it in that area but even be entitled to ask for Rs 25,000 for its removal per truck from that person, the bench said.
The tribunal said the ridge shall be under the charge of the DDA.
A May 24, 1994 notification was issued by the Lt Governor of National Capital Territory of Delhi declaring the land, which is subject matter in the case, as reserved forest.
NGT also observed that once such a notification is issued, demarcation of the area, finalisation of forest rights and issuance of final notification under the Indian Forest Act were mandatory steps that were not taken "despite lapse of two decades".
The Tribunal`s order came on an application, filed by amicus curiae Raj Panjwani assisted by advocate Rahul Choudhary, alleging that non-forest activity like construction of illegal roads is taking place in the ridge area.
The NGT noted that dumping of rubble in the area was also in violation of an apex court order which had specifically directed that the ridge should be maintained in its absolute glory and no debris should be thrown there.
The bench also agreed with the contention of the amicus curiae who said there has been complete inaction on the part of the authorities concerned which has resulted in destruction and starting of non-forest activity in reserved forest area.
The NGT on being informed by the authorities that residents of the area are indulging in non-forest activity on one or the other pretext, said, "Citizens are duty bound to obey the law".
"Rights contemplated in terms of any constitutional mandate including Article 21 of the Constitution of India do have its own limitations. A right cannot be claimed in violation of the law. The areas have been duly notified reserved forest and as such no person has any right to destroy the same in flagrant violation of the provisions of law," it said.
The NGT asked the Chief Secretary of NCT of Delhi "to ensure the full implementation of this order by all three agencies."
The DCP South has been directed to "ensure complete compliance of these directions and submit interim report on the next date of hearing."
"The Forest Authorities as well as DDA shall ensure that in the meanwhile the reserved forest area is not put to any unauthorised or impermissible activity and they shall take steps to ensure prohibition of such activity in accordance with law.
"They shall also ensure that no destruction of forest by construction of roads or otherwise is carried out in the meanwhile," the NGT said.