MUMBAI: The state revenue and forest department has directed the deputy conservator of forests and deputy collectors to implement the Supreme Court order to regularize houses on plots that had been labelled private forest land.
This will come as a relief for over five lakh residents in Thane, Mulund, Bhandup, Nahur, Mahul, Borivli, Kandivli, Virar, Ambernath and Badlapur. Builders such as Godrej, Oberoi Constructions, Runwal group, Nirmal Lifestyle, whose projects were stuck for long, too will benefit.
The chief minister's office confirmed the order, which means land records (7/12 extract) that show the forest department as the owner of the private forest land will now revert to the original land-owners. Sources said the order was issued on December 12 and is applicable to the 18 petitioners who had approached the Supreme Court against the 2008 Bombay high court order. These petitioners cover almost all those affected in Mumbai and Thane.
The private forest land tag affects 6.4 lakh acres across the state. The government was willing to forego developed land in Mumbai and Thane, but was reluctant to do
the same in other parts of the state where it has acquired these lands.
BJP MP Kirit Somaiya explained that ownership of all private forest land that have buildings or other structures or have been developed or on which development has been sanctioned, will be reversed. "In 2005, when the PIL filed by Debi Goenka was being heard in the Bombay high court (see box), the revenue department recorded all the land in and around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, irrespective of the development on these lands, as private forest. Now the name of the forest department will be deleted from the record of rights," he added.
Prakash Padikkal, president, Hillside Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA), said a struggle of a decade had proved fruitful. "This is amply evident in the Maharashtra government's circular for regularization of the affected lands. I am grateful to CM Devendra Fadnavis, finance and planning minister S Mungantiwar and MP Kirit Somaiya for initiating action in correcting the revenue records," he said.
Somaiya said in case of the rest of the state, the government will first verify whether there is an existing forest. "If a forest exists, it is the duty of the government to protect it. Such land cannot be treated as developed land," he said.