It is absolutely imperative that not even an inch of forest land in the State be allowed to be encroached upon by anyone, the Madras High Court observed on Wednesday. It also impressed upon the need to maintain the forest lands well without spoiling their pristine glory.
First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said so while passing interim orders on a public interest litigation petition alleging encroachment of reserve forest land at Naduvattam village in Nilgiris district to build a private resort.
The judges directed the Nilgiris Collector and the forest department officials to immediately visit the spot and find out whether the forest land had been encroached upon as alleged by the litigant S. Prabakaran, a local resident.
The officials were also directed to survey the lands to ascertain the charge of encroachment.
If it was found that the forest lands had been encroached, they should be retrieved and restored to their pristine status, the judges said. They also took serious note of the submission made by petitioner’s counsel C. Vigneswaran that a Chennai based woman doctor, constructing the resort, had laid pipelines to draw water from forest lands.
“If such is the case, the same must be stopped immediately and the negligent or recalcitrant forest officials identified and steps taken against them for not being able to protect the relevant forest,” the court ordered and directed the forest department officials to file an action taken report after three weeks.
They also referred the case to Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram to treat the matter with the degree of seriousness it deserves.