HC restores forestland to Amarnath Shrine Board
From Khajuria S. Kant in Jammu
In another bid to create a hurdle in the smooth functioning of the Amarnath Shrine Board the state government has disallowed the Board to use the forest land for constructing pre-fabricated structures along the track and camping grounds for this year'sAmarnath yatra. But the Division Bench of the High Court brought a sigh of relief to the Board by staying the government order.
The Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice V.K. Jhanji and Justice Y.P. Nargotra today stayed the order on May 28. The stay was granted on an application filed by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board through its CEO, Dr Arun Kumar, wherein it was mentioned that it was to the dismay of the Board to learn that state government vide its order No. 210-FST of 2005, dated May 20, 2005 had withdrawn the already granted permission wherein the government (by order No. 148-FST, dated March 29, 2005) had accorded permission to the Board to use the land. In the application, it was stated that the withdrawal order at this stage would adversely hit the Board as it has made all arrangements for setting up the pre-fabricated huts, toilets etc. and that such a withdrawal order at this stage may causes colossal financial loss as well as untold inconvenience to the public.
The Division Bench directed that subject to the objections and till further orders, the government order, wherein it had withdrawn order No. 148-FST, shall remain stayed. The Bench made it clear that the duration of the government order No. 148-FST of 2005,dated March 29, 2005 shall be prepatory to commencement of the yatra and the user would remain till the end of yatra. It may be mentioned here that Principal Secretary, Forest Department, Sonali Kumar, vide order No. 148-FST of 2005, dated March 29, 2005 had granted permission to use of forest land for construction of pre-fabricated structures by Amarnath Shrine Board for providing facilities to the yatris, on track and camping grounds enroute the shrine falling under some compartments of Lidder Forest Division and Compartment No. 623 ( Sindh Baltal), Sindh Forest Division.
The approval was subject to the conditions that the user agency should not fell any tree; would not construct concrete structure but pre-fabricated structures only; would not allow soil erosion; would not disturb the fragile ecology of entire area and should make adequate eco-friendly arrangements for sewage disposal.
However, after 51 days of issuance of this order, when Najamus Saqib took over as Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Forest Department, he signed a government order No. 210-FST, dated May 20, 2005, whereby he withdrew the order No. 148-FST, whereunder permission was accorded to the Board to construct pre-fabricated structures. Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, Special Secretary to Forest Department, issued the withdrawal order.
Besides, Najamus Saqib also issued certain directions to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, S.D. Swatantra, clarified the withdrawal of the permission and asked him to process the case afresh expeditiously under the relevant provisions of the law. It was mentioned that the earlier permission order was not issued strictly in accordance with the provisions of the J&K Forest conservation Act 1997 and the Cabinet decisions regarding the diversion of forest land.