Residents of flats on private forest land continue to face an uncertain future. A circular issued by the Mumbai suburban collector’s office on September 14 directs tehsildars to reverse the deletion of the term “private forest” from the record of rights unless they were petitioners in the special leave petition before the Supreme Court.
On a petition moved by around 19 petitioners, the SC had upheld the rights of people who own houses on “private forest land” and asked the state to do the needful.
One of the petitioners was the Hillside Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA). “HIRWA represented over a 100 housing societies from Mulund and Nahur in the Supreme Court but now the affected societies are being informed that their names will not be inserted in the property card,” said Prakash Padikkal, president of the association.
The circular was issued after the Konkan divisional commissioner sought a status report on the issue.
The circular further mentions that the chief conservator of forests (Mantralaya) had issued a circular pointing out that the record of rights was being altered even in cases where it did not apply (those not mentioned in the SLP). “This is a serious issue and concerned officials must immediately reverse the change,” it said.
V Tiwari, chief conservator of forests, said the state government for now has decided to carry out the SC orders only where the survey numbers have been mentioned in the order.
“Two days ago, we sought the opinion of the law and judiciary department on whether it can be applied to all impleaders/intervenors in the original petition. A couple of months ago we had sought the opinion of the department on whether the order can be applied across the state. The department in turn has sought the opinion of the attorney-general,” he said.
Charan Singh Sapra, Congress legislator, said the SC order is being wrongly interpreted by the BJP government. “A majority of the affected persons are slum-dwellers and poor farmers. Does the government expect each one of them to become a petitioner and obtain a fresh order?” he asked.
BJP Mumbai unit president Ashish Shelar said he has spoken to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “The chief minister has assured he will soon call a meeting to discuss the issue in detail,” said Shelar.