Tuesday, August 26, 2008

J&K crisis: improper diversion of forest land

As J&K continues to pose a challenge to New Delhi, the spotlight has certainly moved away from the initial flaws of the decision makers in Srinagar which precipitated the crisis. As I analysed the facts leading to the diversion of forest land in favour of the Shrine Board, I found that the State Law Department was correct in suggesting that perhaps it would be necessary to submit the proposal for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes for clearance by the Supreme Court's Forest Bench, in conformity with the Court's orders in the T.N.Godavarman case. The suggestion was unfortunately overruled by the the Deputy Chief Minister, who accepted the view of the Advocate General that the State was not bound by the Supreme Court's orders in the Godavarman case. Here, I have explained why the State AG and the Dy. CM were wrong. This is not to suggest that had the matter been referred to the Supreme Court, it would not have agreed to the diversion. But following the Court-laid down procedure would have at least helped to defuse the situation, as the Government could have been spared of the blame of partisanship by either region. This need not be construed as another form of Article 143 route which Rajeev Dhavan had suggested as a way out. Right or wrong, the Supreme Court has taken upon itself the responsibility to manage our forests, throughout the country, including J&K. Therefore, under the pretext of Article 370, the State cannot claim immunity from the mechanism and procedure laid down by the Supreme court.
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