Sanjeev K. Ahuja | Gurgaon February, 8
THE HARYANA Forest department has expressed its inability to tackle environmental protection offences such as lopping of trees in Palam Vihar because it can’t find a weighty punishment for the offence. If prosecuted under Punjab Land Preservation Act, the offenders could get away with a fine of Rs100 or imprisonment of up to one month by the court.
“That’s the reason why instead of prosecuting them in the court of law, we slap monetary fine and charge compensation to make them pay a respectable amount. Under this, we take each felled tree as an independent case and slap fine for all the trees at the rate. In October last year when Ansal’s Star Estate Management Limited (SEML) chopped off hundreds of trees in Sushant Lok and Palam VIhar, we slapped a total fine of Rs 7,000. Had we taken them to court they could have got off with meager fine of Rs 100,” said Alok Verma, the district forest officer, Gurgaon.
He said that if the offender refuses to pay the penalty, he is tried under Punjab Land Preservation Act which means he can get away by paying just Rs 100. VIvek Kamboj, president of NGO Haryali that blew the whistle on cutting of trees by the SEML in October, alleged that trees were lopped off to benefit some of the commercial property owners whose properties were being shadowed by these trees in Sushant Lok –I and Palam Vihar.
The NGO has registered complaint against the developer with the deputy commissioner, senior superintendent of police and forest department. Tons of timbers loaded in trucks were sold to cremation authorities in Delhi, he claimed. The Haryana Forest department had proposed an amendment bill for
More teeth in the India Forest Act, but no attempt has been made to sharpen the Punjab Land Preservation Act.