These houses at Bariam village near Pachmarhi have been declared as illegal

Lalit Shastri

Violation of Wildlife Protection Act

Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy received a jolt this Thursday when the court of the divisional commissioner of Bhopal and Narmadapuram quashed an appeal against a lower court order declaring as illegal the purchase of land and construction of bungalows by her film maker husband Pradip Krishen and three others at Bariam village near Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh.

The court of Bhopal and Narmadapuram Divisional Commissioner Manoj Shrivastava quashed the appeal of Mr. Krishen and three others challenging the November 2010 order of the Piparia sub-divisional magistrate declaring as illegal the bungalows constructed by Mr. Krishen, along with those built by renowned novelist Vikram Seth’s sister, a doctor Jagdish Chandra Sharma and a retired forest officer M.K. Jadhav.

The divisional Commissioner’s court has issued the order quashing the appeal in this case by addressing the question whether any one can acquire rights under section 18 (1) of the Wildlife Protection Act in an area governed by WPA.

The bungalows in question have been built in a notified area which was part of a forest sanctuary and protected under section 18 (1) of WPA. Hence rights cannot be acquired here, the order says.

The advocate for Mr. Krishen pleaded that his client was not aware of the law when he had bought the land but this did not convince the court and the plea was rejected with the assertion that promulgation of law cannot be made contingent on the knowledge level of the appellants as well as officials.

The Divisional Commissioner’s court has also pointed out in its order that even if we keep away the mandate of WPA and restrict ourselves simply to the provisions of the Land Revenue Code, the mutations were illegal as neither public notices had been issued nor the Gram Sabhas informed before mutation.

The order further says only those rights that are lawfully acquired can be recorded in the revenue record for mutation. The acquisition of rights in this case cannot be permitted even under section 110 of the M.P. Land Revenue Code and mutation rules 27, 28 and 29.

It was argued by the appellant’s counsel that there was a recommendation by a centrally empowered committee to declare Bariam village as a revenue village and to exclude it from the notified area. The Divisional Commissioner’s court has said in its order that the very fact that it was a recommendation at the time of the purchase and even today Bariam is not a revenue village. A recommendation cannot take the shape of law except by making an amendment, the order says.

On page 27 of the Report on status of tigers in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh titled “Vanishing Stripes -II” published by CREW in the year 2000, it has been underscored people were acquiring property in the Pachmarhi Sanctuary area and irreversibly damaging the Satpura National Park.

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