The National Green Tribunal (NGT) slapped a fine of Rs. 46,14,960 on a former DGP of Uttarakhand for illegally cutting 25 trees in the Mussoorie Forest Division.
A bench of Justice R S Rathore said that it is “crystal clear” that the officer, B S Sidhu, had purchased the land in question despite knowing the fact that it was the land of the reserve forest.
The green panel found that Mr Sidhu, the then DGP of Uttarakhand, had wished to have a house in the forest and he selected the land falling in the reserve forest area for this purpose.
“It is relevant to mention here that violation of environmental laws is an infringement of civil rights. Therefore, a wrongdoer has to compensate for the injury. This distinguishes it from a commission of a crime which is a breach of public right and/or duty and the same is punishable in the interest of society. An action in the civil wrong is initiated by the person injured whereas proceedings on commission of a crime are taken up by the state…”
“It has been established, as given in the earlier part of the judgment, that 25 sal trees were felled illegally at the instance of B S Sidhu in the reserve forest land, which was illegally purchased by him. Considering the fact that, at the relevant time, he was holding the post of director general of police in Uttarakhand, we considered it just and proper to direct him to pay 10 times of value of tree calculated at the schedule rate,” the bench said.
The judgment came on the plea filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association, alleging that a senior officer had got a fraudulent sale deed executed in the reserve forest area in the Mussoorie Forest Division and he had illegally cut 25 trees.
It alleged that illegal felling of trees and the sale of reserved forest land was carried out in contravention of the provision of the National Forest Policy, 1988 and Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.