Odisha HC issues notice to Centre, State over forest land grab

The Orissa High Court on Friday asked forest and revenue officials of the central and state governments to enquire into alleged forest land grab by certain influential persons in Jajpur district and submit reports within two weeks.

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court on Friday asked forest and revenue officials of the central and state governments to enquire into alleged forest land grab by certain influential persons in Jajpur district and submit reports within two weeks.

The High Court notice came in connection with the alleged land grab of about 100 acres of forest land by Gokarneswar Trust, which is headed by senior BJD MP Kalpataru Das's wife Pratima Das.

Taking up a PIL filed by Iswar Das and three others of Dharmasala, a division bench headed by Chief Justice Amitava Roy issued notices to Assistant Director General of Forests (ADGF) in the Union forest ministry and Additional Principal Conservator of Forests (APCF) of eastern zone.

Apart from these two central government officers, notices were also issued to Odisha forest secretary and revenue secretary. All these four officers and the MP?s wife as chairman of the Trust have been arraigned as respondents in the writ petition, informed the petitioner advocate Srinath Mishra.

The petitioners have alleged that about 100 acres of forest land in Jajpur district has been grabbed by influential local political leaders and have set up an educational institution and constructed concrete houses on it.

The land grab incident first came to light in March 2012 when locals objected to construction of permanent structures in forest land.

"Although, the Union forest department, following a petition made by Iswar Das in November 2013 had asked the state government to enquire about the alleged land grab, state government officials sat over the central government?s order and did not take any action," the petition alleged.

The petition further said that the ADCF?s office in Kolkata had also written letters to Odisha forest and revenue secretaries in November last year to conduct a joint enquiry and submit a report within two months.

Surprisingly, no such enquiry was held by the state government officials and no report was prepared, the petition alleged.  

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