The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the city government whether it was going to regularise the encroachment on forest lands in the national capital.
The court, hearing the PIL initiated by it in 2015 on the issue of poor air quality in Delhi, was informed about the apprehension of the amicus curiae that while regularising over 1,700 unauthorised colonies, the government could also regularise encroachment on forest lands, which cannot be done.
A bench of Justices G S Sistani and Anup Jairam Bhambhani asked the government's Forest Department to file an affidavit to this regard and listed the matter for hearing on January 23.
Senior advocate Kailash Vasudev, who was appointed the amicus curiae in the air pollution matter to assist the court, said the Centre is bringing a law to regularise unauthorised colonies in the city and he apprehends that it will also regularise the encroachment on forest areas.
"An encroachment is an encroachment. It cannot be at unauthorised colonies and encroachment at forest lands cannot be regularised as this would be against the Forest Act," he submitted.
Ishwar Singh, principal chief conservator of forests, Department of Forest and Wildlife, told the court that encroachment on forest lands will not be regularised and the forest area cannot be regularised.
The court then asked the forest department to place on record its stand on the issue.
On November 14, the counsel for the Forest Department submitted that in the Asola-Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuaries, demarcation of forest areas has been carried out but there was large-scale encroachment and the handicap is that stay orders have been obtained by several parties from various courts, hampering the process.
The bench had directed the department's counsel to prepare a list of matters pending in courts to enable it to get a clear view as to how many such matters are pending and in which courts.
"This court would also like to know as to what is the plan of the Forest Department to increase the green cover and for removal of encroachment from the forest area in the near future," it had said.
In a bid to reduce air pollution, the high court had directed authorities to remove encroachment from forest areas and mitigate dust in the national capital.
It had also asked authorities whether planting of seeds can be done by throwing dart shots from helicopters in forest areas.
On November 14, the high court noted that this matter has been pending since February 9, 2015, and detailed orders have been passed from time-to-time for taking steps to curb air pollution in Delhi.
However, if the measures suggested from time-to-time had been seriously implemented, pollution levels in Delhi would not have been as alarming as they are now, the bench had said.