Delhi Ridge not property of forest dept, belongs to citizens: HC

HC pulls up officials for constructing path without due approvals

Delhi Ridge not property of forest dept, belongs to citizens: HC

Affirming that the Delhi Ridge here was not the property of the forest department but belonged to citizens, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday pulled up officials for constructing a six-to-eight feet wide path there without due approvals.

Justice Jasmeet Singh underscored that the forest department was only a custodian and preserver of the forest area in the national capital and asked the officials to place before the court the entire record pertaining to the construction of the passage in the Central Ridge.

“Ridge is not the proprietary property of the forest department. You are only a custodian of our rights. you can’t deal with it in a cursory manner. You are not the owner of the Ridge. You are required for conservation of things existing at the Ridge which belongs to the citizens of the country, especially Delhi,” the court observed.

Considered the lungs of the national capital, the Ridge is an extension of the Aravalli Hill range in Delhi and is a rocky, hilly and forested area. It has been divided into four zones - south, south-central, central and north - due to administrative reasons. These four zones make up a total area of around 7,784 hectares.

Amici curiae advocates Gautam Narayan, Aditya N Prasad and Prabhsahay Kaur, who assist the court in the present matter concerning forest cover and conservation of the Ridge, informed that besides a road leading to the ISRO station inside the Central Ridge, there was another six-to-eight feet path which was built without any approval.

The Delhi government counsel said while there was no prior permission for the path which was used to undertake certain conservation activities, the matter has now been sent to the Ridge Management Board for sanction.

The court observed that the conduct of the official concerned, in first constructing the passage and then seeking an “ex-post facto sanction”, was prima facie in violation of an order of the Supreme Court and directed that the trail be removed and restored if the permission is not accorded by December 15.

“They are not the owner of the Ridge. Why are they behaving like this? It is for the people of Delhi,” the court questioned as it asserted that the Ridge was not the “personal fiefdom” of the forest department officials.

The court also asked the Delhi government counsel to seek instructions by Thursday on the forest department holding the “walk with wildlife” event next month inside a notified sanctuary in the Southern Ridge after the same was flagged by the amici curiae.

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