File status report about 5,190 kanals forest land at Gulmarg: High Court to Govt

Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the government to file a report with regard to status of 5,190 kanals forest land at tourist resort Gulmarg.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta asked the J&K Chief Secretary to inform it about the status of the land after the Court went through a report filed by Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Special Forest Division, Tangmarg.

The report reveals that 5190 kanals and five marals land identified as “Maqbooza-Janglat” was forest land. It says the land was required to be either included in Gulmarg bowl or the related government order was required to be modified for transferring the land as demarcated forest land, falling under designated wildlife area.

Notably, under a government order, nearly 15,000 kanals land stands transferred to Gulmarg Development Authority which included 5,190 kanals of this forest land.

The DFO has reported that following encroachments of 13 marals of forest land by hotel Khyber Resorts and seven marals by hotel Castle, notices were issued to these encroachers.

“Such encroachments of the forest land would be in the teeth of law laid down by the Supreme Court in T N Godavarman Thirumulpad v/s Union of India and others” the Court said.

It directed the owners of the hotels to remove their encroachments of forest land forthwith. “We make it clear that this direction is without prejudice to all the consequences which flow against these encroachers under all applicable laws,” the Court said.

The forest department’s report also indicated that till date 97 Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) boundary pillars were installed covering linear lining of 1167.47 rfts.

Senior AAG, BA Dar informed the Court that all the boundary pillars were not installed as revenue authorities raised an objection that first the declaration of the forest land was necessary.

Following his submission and perusal of the status report of the forest department, the Court referred the issue to the Chief Secretary for a decision.

“Let this matter be brought before the Chief Secretary who shall ensure that this issue is resolved at the earliest and a report be placed before us with regard to declaration of the forest land before the next date of hearing,” the Court said while listing the matter for hearing on August 31.

The Court also asked the Forest department to examine the response filed to the report and take action against illegal and unauthorized constructions pointed out in it.

With regard to the report filed by Registrar Judicial as “Court Commissioner” and which was registered as an application, the Court said the matters reported are of serious encroachments and illegal constructions as well as destruction of trees in the Gulmarg area. AAG, MA Chashoo represented Gulmarg Development Authority.