The Uttar Pradesh government has been pulled up by the Supreme Court for allowing claims on reserved forest lands contrary to a top court order in July 1994 that said no person or industry could encroach on reserved forest land. In strongly-worded criticism the court said the state had been "sleeping for 26 years" and warned Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's government that this would have "serious repercussions".
"You keep sleeping. The State has been sleeping for 26 years and now you want us to pass ex-parte order to remove everyone," the Supreme Court said on being told that more than 1,000 industries and individuals had laid claim to reserved forest lands.
"This will have serious repercussions," the court warned, noting that the total investment in the region must be more than Rs 1,000 crore.
Last year the Uttar Pradesh government had filed a petition asking the top court to cancel claims to land in the Renukoot-Mirzapur reserved forests that had been allotted after September 1994. However, the court immediately wanted to know why forest officers were still passing orders to allow the claiming of reserved forest land, particularly by industries.
"You're the state of UP. You have no disciplinary control over your staff. Can't you control them?" the top court demanded to know, adding, "We will have to at least issue notice to the industries - like NTPC Limited (formerly National Thermal Power Corporation Limited) - and hear them."
The Supreme Court then asked for a list of individuals and industries to whom land had been illegally allotted, only to be told that the state did not have such a list, but would compile one.
The court also asked the state to find out if district judges and forest officers were still allotting land, and directed it to ensure the practice was stopped.