SC allows construction in forest areas after depositing NPV

New Delhi: Real Estate Developers and builders in Mumbai today got a relief from the Supreme Court which allowed them to go ahead with their projects in forest areas provided they have deposited the Net Present Value (NPV) of the land with Maharashtra government.

The apex court recorded names of the developers and builders, who have paid the NPV and have conceded as an interim measure that the land in question are in forest areas, to commence the construction activity.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan said the interim order allowing construction activity is subject to the outcome of the pending petitions before it.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati said the developers can be allowed to complete the project subject to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) permitting the alleged forest land to be used as non-forest land on payment of the NPV.

Earlier, the court had granted three weeks to parties to pay the NPV to Maharashtra government as evaluated by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for carrying out construction activities on the alleged forest land.

However, the Bench said that before depositing the NPV, the builders will have to concede as an interim measure that the land in question are in forest areas.

Leading developers Godrej and Boyce, Nanabhai Jeejeebhoy, Atithi Builders, Normal Lifestyle and Nirmal Developers and residents have challenged the Bombay High Court judgement which had held certain land as private forest land. The apex court said NPV has to be deposited as per the recommendation of the CEC which had categorised the land in question into four categories.

The Bench had said those who want to deposit NPV should do so with the state government which would consider the category under which the affected parties fell. However, it said this would be without any prejudice to the parties.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked Maharashtra government to maintain status quo with regard to huge tracts of land that were declared as 'private forests.'

The CEC had recommended that areas acquired under the Private Forest Act be allowed for non-forestry use, dereservation and private ownership on payment of an amount equal to the NPV applicable for the adjoining forest area.