Himachal to file review petition on encroachments

Shimla, July 21 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the government will file a review petition in the high court over its order to remove encroachments by fruit growers, mainly apple, on forest land.

The high court order has affected the small and marginal fruit growers across the state and the state is determined to provide relief to them,” the chief minister told reporters here on Tuesday.

He said there was no need to cut the fruit trees on the encroached land.

“Instead, the forest department after taking the possession of the land will fence it and sell the produce. This would enhance the income of the forest department and also help retain the green cover,” the chief minister said.

He said the review petition would be filed in a day or two.

On the order of the high court to disconnect water and electricity connections of the encroachers, the chief minister said: “The water and electricity connections should not be disconnected indiscriminately.”

Getting tough on encroachments on forest land, the Himachal Pradesh High Court in April directed the government to clear them within six months, adding that electricity and water connections of encroachers should be disconnected.

A division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, in an interim order, observed that in all cases where encroachments have been removed or are yet to be removed, the cost of removing them would be recovered from the encroachers.

In its next hearing on July 14, the high court directed the state to file a fresh status report on encroachments on forest land.

Horticulture Minister Vidya Stokes, a prominent apple grower, along with Congress legislators on Tuesday met the chief minister here and sought government intervention over the state high court order.

They urged the chief minister to file a review petition in the high court and initiate steps for stopping the drive of removing encroachments wherein many small and marginal farmers were being affected.

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