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Friday, July 13, 2012

HC rejects MPSEB plea on irrigation colony in Pench

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Jul 13, 2012, 12.37AM IST NAGPUR: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Tuesday dismissed a writ petition filed by the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) seeking to quash an order to shift the irrigation colony in the Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR). Justices Vasanti Naik and AB Choudhari dismissed the writ petition filed by MPSEB for setting aside or modify observation of the judgement passed on April 22, 2002 in an earlier petition filed in 2001 against no action for shifting of colony be taken. The colony is situated over 15 hectares. Earlier, MPSEB had filed the petition to continue occupying the area notified as reserved forest under Indian Forest Act read with Wildlife Protection Act. In 2003, Justice J N Patel and Justice P S Brahme at the high court had held that the petitioners have no right to remain in the reserved forest area. Of the 101 quarters inside Pench, a few are occupied by MPSEB staff and water resources department (WRD) for maintenance work on the Pench Hydroelectric Power Project. The court had ordered all occupants to vacate the reserved forest land and enter only for purposes of maintenance. The petitioners had also filed special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court. But, after a few hearings, they withdrew it. On April 22, 2009 Justices Sharad Bobade and FM Reis had also observed that the order does not make any exception for any category of persons and all of them have been directed to vacate the reserved forest land. They issued show cause notices to the superintending engineer, Pench project and chief engineer of MPSEB why action for breach of judgement of April 22, 2002 should not be initiated against them. During the contempt proceedings, MP Badar, special counsel for the forest department, submitted that the present writ petition is liable to be dismissed. Ashutosh Dharmadhikari appeared for MPSEB and Badar appeared for the forest department. There is an interstate agreement between Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on the Pench Hydroelectric Power Project that water will be shared by the state and power by MP. Hence, the expenses to shift both the colonies have to be borne by the WRD. The WRD is ready to give 0.81 hectare land to develop 79 quarters for MPSEB staff. Of this area, 0.40 hectare is vacant while rest is occupied by old buildings of the department, which are required to be dismantled. The too had agreed that the land offered is sufficient for 79 quarters.

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