The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stop the demolition of over 10,000 settlements encroaching on the Aravalli forest land in Haryana’s Faridabad district, Bar and Bench reported.
The court directed the Haryana government to evict slum dwellers from the land by July 19, according to the Hindustan Times.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari passed the order based on a public interest litigation seeking a stay on the demolition of the settlements. The petitioners had also asked the court for more time to produce documents to claim rehabilitation.
Advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for residents of Khori Gaon, told the court that the families living in the area will have nowhere to stay once their huts are demolished.
The court said that they had enough time to vacate the land. “We gave orders, you have been there at your own risk,” it said, according to Live Law. “This is forest land, not any ordinary land. Please read our Order dated April 5, 2021. When you want the scheme to be extended, you need to provide the additional documents and details. One year was already given to you.”
Then Supreme Court added: “We want our forest land to be cleared”.
The petitioners’ advocate informed the court the residents were being forcibly evicted from the land even as hearings in the court continued. “Yes let them do it,” the court said in response, according to Bar and Bench.
The lawyer said that a temporary shelter must be set up at least for the children who would be evicted from their homes amid the coronavirus crisis.
“All around the world, people are being encouraged to stay indoors as a house is the most effective frontline defence against Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, evicting the slum dwellers at Khori Goan during pandemic would make them vulnerable to the disease,” the lawyer argued, according to Bar and Bench.
The Supreme Court said that the Haryana government should look into the matter. “We are only concerned with vacation of forest area,” it said, according to PTI. “We have given enough time earlier,” the bench observed.
During the last hearing in the case on June 7, the Supreme Court had directed civic authorities in Faridabad to use “police force, if needed” to remove all encroachments from the forest land within six weeks, according to Bar and Bench.
In 2019, the Haryana government had passed amendments to the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Act, which opened thousands of acres of land to real estate and non-forest activity that were earlier protected as forest land.
The Supreme Court had warned the Haryana government that it would get into trouble if anything was done to the Aravalli Hills or the forest area.