Pulling up the Dindigul district administration for miserably failing to protect a piece of land, the Madras High Court has directed the Collector to remove all encroachments and hand over the entire extent of the property to the Conservator of Forests, Dindigul circle.

The forest official should immediately erect a fence around the land and send a proposal to the competent authority for declaring the area as a forest land within three weeks.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices R. Banumathi and T.S. Sivagnanam, was disposing of a public interest litigation petition.

The petitioner, A.R. Gokulakrishnan, sought a direction to the authorities to conduct a detailed probe into the alleged illegal activities of one R. Ambalavanan, an IA & AS officer, who had encroached upon a vast extent of forest land in Poolathur village.

In a counter affidavit, Mr. Ambalavanan denied the petitioner’s allegations. The Collector submitted that the official owned land in an adjoining survey number and he had not encroached upon government poromboke land.

Following the Bench order, the District Judge (DJ), Dindigul, made an inspection and submitted a report with regard to the encroachment and the allegations made by the petitioner.

The Bench said a careful analysis of the facts pleaded by the petitioner and in the counter affidavit filed by Mr. Ambalavanan, it was evident that the petition was a sequel to a private dispute between the petitioner and Mr. Ambalavanan, who hailed from the same village.

The DJ noticed encroachment and crops like coffee, orange and jackfruit trees in the survey number concerned. The court said the revenue administration, under the direct control of the Collector, had miserably failed to protect the government property. The VAO and the Tahsildar under whose jurisdiction the government poromboke land fell had been silent spectators to land grabbing done by some people.

The Bench said it did not propose to go into the controversy as to who had encroached upon or grabbed or attempted to grab government property, but was only concerned with the aspect regarding protection of the government poromboke land. There was an allegation that the petitioner himself was an encroacher.

The court said if it was found that the petitioner was an encroacher on any government property, the Collector should take steps to remove the encroachments.

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