The Patanjali group and some other land dealers have allegedly acquired more than 400 acres of forested common lands in the Aravalli hills of Haryana’s Faridabad district, the Business Standard reported on Thursday. The transactions for large-scale forest land took place between 2014 and 2016, the report said.

In 2011, the Supreme Court had directed that all common land in the hills should be returned to panchayats and any such sale was termed illegal.

In February this year, the Haryana government had issued a notification ordering to take up consolidation of 3,184 acres of land to ensure “better cultivation”. The process of land consolidation involves bringing together several small holdings scattered over a vast area. Majority of this land is gair mumkin pahar and shamlat deh, where cultivation and development is not permitted according to the law, the report said.

In February, the Haryana Assembly amended the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1990, opening up thousands of acres in the mountain ranges for real estate development and mining. Following this, the Supreme Court had sharply rebuked it for trying to “destroy the forest”. The top court had barred any action under the amended Act.

A case challenging the consolidation proceedings and to recover all lands that were allegedly purchased illegally before the Supreme Court order is pending with the Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner’s court. In 2018, four individuals reportedly claimed in the court that they collectively represented more than 321 of the disputed owners of common lands.

Pravin Kumar Sharma, a resident of Faridabad, has submitted documents for at least 104 land owners through power of attorney agreements. Sharma, a resident of Faridabad, is an authorised representative of a company called Herbo Ved Gram Private Limited.

As per regulatory filings until 2016-’17, yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Limited owned 100% shares of Herbo Ved Gram Private Limited. In the following financial year, 2017-’18, the ownership of 99% of these shares were transferred to Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev’s business associate, the report claimed.

Furthermore, as per the report, the company’s filings showed that it had made unsecured interest-free advances to the real-estate agent Pravin Kumar Sharma to buy lands and listed names of the landowners in Kot village who were paid advances against their lands.

Also read: ‘Irreversible damage to Aravallis’: SC orders demolition of buildings in Faridabad’s Kant Enclave