New Delhi: The Supreme Court today stopped short of ordering a CBI inquiry into alleged irregularities in utilisation of funds by Uttar Pradesh's forest department for felling and plantation of trees in Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) in Agra for construction of four different roads.
The apex court, which expressed its mind that the entire episode needed a proper inquiry, preferably by CBI, decided to give one more opportunity to the state government by making it clear that it would not grant further time for compliance of its orders.
A bench, comprising Justices T S Thakur and C Nagappan, which gave four weeks for compliance of its orders, decided not to go for CBI inquiry after state's Additional Advocate General Gaurav Bhatia, assured that all orders of the apex court would be complied with and a better affidavit removing all discrepancies on numbers of trees uprooted and numbers of trees planted indicated.
He said the state government was committed to carrying out the order of the apex court on the issue of compensatory afforestation at the expense of the project proponent.
"We think it fit to give one more opportunity to the state government to identify the area for plantation of trees as compensatory afforestation measure and plans, future plans and road map for implementation of orders of this court," it said.
The bench, which posted the matter for April 27, said "we are not happy with the cavalier manner in which the state government filed its affidavit".
"Crores of rupees have been spent on afforestation. How much money actually utilised for plantation works in the area bothers us. Given the track record of forest department and authorities, we are inclined for proper inquiry," the bench said referring to the utilisation of public funds and non-compliance of its directions," it said.
The bench said "we are not happy with what has transpired in the last few hearings and the manner in which the state government has dealt with the compensatory afforestation and order passed by this court.
"There is a large gap between the number of saplings to be done and actual plantation to be done. The only explanation offered for discrepancies and failure by the state government is the alleged non-release of funds. We see no reason why the state government did not move this court."
The apex court expressed its displeasure over the non-compliance of its August 4, 2014 and subsequent orders.
The state government was directed to file a proper status report indicating the total number of orders which have been passed since 1996 permitting felling of trees in TTZ with particulars of the same.
Secondly, the total number of trees which are required to be planted by the state government agencies towards compulsory afforestation effort in terms of the said orders.
Thirdly, total number of trees that have been planted so far pursuant to the orders and the areas/locations where such plantation work has been carried out.
The court had the said status report would take care to properly identify the areas where plantation has been done so that the same can be verified by appointing a Local Commissioner for the purpose, if considered necessary.
Fourthly, in case plantation work has not be carried out in terms of the directions of this Court issued in any particular case the reasons for non-compliance shall be indicated and the persons responsible for no-compliance identified.
Fifthly, the state government shall indicate the time- frame within which the deficiencies, if any, in plantation work shall be made by the authorities concerned and the areas identified or reserved for such plantation work.