State’s move on zudpi land challenged, HC issues notices

Vijay Pinjarkar, Times News Network, 7 December 2018

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The state government’s move to denotify over 86,409 hectares of zudpi jungle has been challenged in the Nagpur Bench of Bombay high court.

The PIL was filed by environmentalist Debi Goenka’s Conservation Action Trust (CAT) through senior counsel CS Kaptan. Justices Ravi Deshpande & Vinay Joshi issued notices on Wednesday for reply to respondent state government and ministry of environment and forest.

The petitioner is impugning GR issued on March 4, 2014, simplifying procedure for diversion of zudpi lands, which are forest in the record of revenue departments. The government also wants to do away with condition of compensatory afforestation in lieu of diversion of 86,409 hectare zudpi land under Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

The petitioner is also impugning government guidelines issued on November 8, 2017, permitting zudpi lands and other degraded forest lands to be used for compensatory afforestation. It has also opposed state’s move of June 27, 2018, to allow zudpi lands to be transferred to different agencies without prior permission of central government. The HC has been prayed to quash these GRs and guidelines.

In its report, a six-member state-level committee headed by then divisional commissioner Anoop Kumar recommended that entire 86,409 hectares of zudpi jungle in Vidarbha be construed as revenue land and should be immediately brought out of the ambit of Forest (Conservation) Act.

The report submitted to the government stated that in case Centre does not change its stand, the state may consider approaching the Supreme Court by filing interlocutory application (IA) in writ petition (202/95 Godavarman case) with a prayer that the 86,409 hectare zudpi land does not attract provisions of FCA and that the orders 1996 by the apex court are not applicable on the said land.

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