In regard to the depleting forest cover in Jammu & Kashmir, the Single Bench of Justice Rajesh Bindal observed that certain steps need to be taken by the UT administration to improve the situation and find remedies. The Court observed that the way the forest department functions in the valley is not at all up to the mark and that it is not even monitoring the forest areas to prevent illegal encroachment.
As per the order, Justice Bindal said that “This court is constrained to observe that the way the forest department is working cannot be appreciated. It has a large area under its control in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir but unfortunately, not being monitored properly though there are ways and means to do the same. Forest cover is decreasing as encroachments are increasing day by day. Illegal forest cutting is also rampant. Some urgent steps are required to be taken to take care of our green cover”. Justice Bindal was hearing a writ petition filed by Mohammed Sadiq Wani, which seeks a direction upon the forest authorities to extend the time limit of his permission for collection of non-timber forest produce (NTEF) from the Marwah Forest division. The Court said that “On year to year basis, the contracts are awarded for extraction/collection and removal of NTFP...In such a situation, how extension for extraction/removal of NTFP can be envisaged is a mystery. It cannot be comprehended as to how at the same time two persons can be allowed to extract and remove NTFP, from the same area. This may create disputes amongst the contractors.”
The Bench observed that “Foolproof method or removal is also required to be put in place. Under what circumstances, the contractor, who had been awarded a contract for extraction of NTFB for a particular period can be granted extension when the period of extension may overlap with the period for which next year’s contract be awarded.” The Court directed the Forest Secretary to the UT Administration and the Chief Conservator of forest in the valley to take appropriate action in the matter. But no relief was granted to the petitioner for the availability of an “effective alternate remedy” already provided in an extraction contract in the form of arbitration. [READ ORDER]