Resort in forest: HC notice to State govt

Resort in forest: HC notice to State govt

Resort in forest: HC notice to State govt

The High Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of a report published in Deccan Herald and another English daily about a wildlife warden building a resort in the Bhadra Protected Forest in Chikkamagaluru district and ordered that notices be issued to the State government and others. 

The forest department had filed an FIR against Satish Gowda D S, an honorary wildlife warden of the Bhadra Protected Forest, for building a resort by spending Rs two crore in “flagrant” violations of forest and wildlife laws.

But no action has been taken against him so far. Gowda owns seven acres of land in survey number 216 in Sirivase village, which is adjacent to Bhadra and Masagali protected forests. 

Gowda has been found to be constructing a large building on 0.75 acre of land between Bhadra Protected Forest and Masagali Reserve Forest, without obtaining any permission/no-objection certificate from the forest department or the district administration. He hasn’t obtained permission for change in land use (land conversion).

 He just secured a building licence from the gram panchayat for constructing a farmhouse on the agricultural land. 

The resort has a large pond and playgrounds. Cages for birds and animals have been constructed in front of the building. An electric fence has been erected around the building.

A tank has been constructed to collect water from the stream which flows from Seegekhan Hill and a five-inch diameter pipe laid for a kilometre — all along the protected forest land. The water from this stream is being used for constructing the resort. 

The course of all-season Somavahini stream has been altered to facilitate the construction. A narrow track through the forest has been widened to a 30-foot road by cutting down trees.

Gowda has been constructing the resort in violation of the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. A division bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy ordered that notices be issued to the government, the forest department and Gowda, and adjourned the hearing until February 27, 2015. 

Plea dismissed

The High Court on Thursday dismissed a batch of writ appeals filed by sugar mill owners challenging the single bench order with regard to the sugarcane prices fixed by the State government. 

The appellants had contended that when the Central government had fixed the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugar cane at Rs 2,100 per tonne for the current season, the government issued a notification on November 10, 2013, fixing the FRP at Rs 2,300 for South Karnataka and Rs 2,500 for North Karnataka.

Sugar mill owners had contended that the State government did not have  authority to fix sugar cane prices and had questioned the constitutional validity of the Karnataka Sugarcane (Regulation of Purchase and Supply) Act, 2013. 

The single bench, in its order, stated that the argument that only the Union government had power to fix the prices was not valid. Fixing price was an administrative issue and that the State government had the right to do so.

It would not be right for the court to intervene in this matter, it had said. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy upheld order, dismissed the appeals.

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