HC dismisses pleas challenging notification of Megamalai as RF


Encroachers residing in the forest for decades can now be evicted


The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court dismissed a slew of writ petitions challenging the notification of Megamalai as a reserve forest. The judgement now allows the district administration to evict encroachers who have resided in the forest for decades.

A Division Bench of Justices M. M. Sundresh and N. Sathish Kumar observed, “We are at a loss to understand as to how these petitions are maintainable at the instance of the encroachers. A writ petition can only be maintainable by a person who has a legal right. Nobody has a legal right to use a forest, which is meant for the entire humanity at large.”

The court took cognisance of the fact that scores of encroachers had made their way into the forest and started illegally cultivating commercial crops like silk cotton and cashew within the forest area.

The court noted that the reserve forest was the source for the Vaigai river, which, in turn, fed large parts of southern districts, thus being an important water source. Disturbances to these regions would lead to heavy soil erosion, siltation of dams, landslides and possible change in course of the river. The court said that the encroachments resulted in cutting of trees and poaching.

The court took cognisance of the State’s submission that the reserve forest was a 24655.75 hectare habitat for endangered flora and fauna and human development by unlawful encroachments within the region was a hurdle and would lead to man-animal conflict. The State, however, submitted that there were 19 tribal families living within the forest area and they would not be disturbed from their natural habitat.

The court dismissed the petitions observing that if at all there was public interest in the litigations, they would have to stand to protect the forest.

Theni Collector M. Pallavi Baldev said that the district administration would work towards systematically rehabilitating the people residing inside the reserved forest area by providing livelihood and housing.

“People residing inside these areas have been there for many years and are unaware of what they would do and how they would earn their income in the outside world. The district administration will ensure all support. I have already met the people from the encroachment villages and taken them through various schemes, loans and subsidies available,” she said.

She added that living in encroachment villages meant that the villagers had little or no exposure to electricity, phone lines and schooling. Through rehabilitation, Ms. Baldev said that the district administration would promise development.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:22:15 PM |

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