Mumbai:Building on forest land stayed

       No Constructions Will Be Allowed On The Plots, Advocate-General Informs High Court  

      TIMES NEWS NETWORK  Mumbai: The government on Wednesday informed the high court that it will not act on the issue of private forest land for 12 weeks. 

       Allaying fears of an immediate fallout of the high court judgment upholding the state government’s claim over huge swathes of private forest land in the city, the advocate-general on Wednesday informed the HC that it will “not act for 12 weeks’’ on the changed entries or notices that declared the land as private forest. But he also said no new constructions will be permitted on any of the said plots that are vested with the state.
          The builders and resident welfare associations, whose petitions were dismissed by the HC, have three months to move the Supreme Court in appeal. The developers had sought a stay on the HC order.
          Declining a stay, the bench of Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S C Dharmadhikari recorded the advocate-general’s statement that no action would be taken in the next three months.
         Though unspecified, this means that there will be no initiation of demolition proceedings, but no construction will be permitted either. So, projects that have been partially sanctioned by the BMC will also not be allowed to get off the ground.
         Senior counsel Janak Dwarakadas, who represented a builder, asked the court to allow construction to commence on projects where the BMC had given commencement certificates (CC). Not accepting the plea, the court said all CCs have been rendered void after the judgment.
   The HC order has declared nearly 900 acres of land in and around Mumbai as private forest land. As these are reserved forests, no construction can be carried out on them.
            All existing structures on the forest land have been declared “encroachments’’ by the HC order.
         While passing its landmark judgment on Monday, the court had significantly held that the “state cannot be prevented from taking further steps to safeguard and protect private forests.’’
         The court further said, “If the state desires not to allow any encroachment on reserve forests, then we cannot, in any manner, prevent it from doing so. As held by the Supreme Court, these are matters of larger public interest. If larger public interest is going to be subserved by protecting and safeguarding forest wealth, greenery and (the) environment, then the petitioner cannot complain.’’
         In its 155-page judgment, the court found no merit in the petitioners’ stand that the land, for which a showcause notice was served 50 years ago to declare them as private forests, can no longer be treated as forest land as the plots were subsequently declared fit for residential/industrial or commercial use.
         In a warning, the court also said, “The lapses, omissions or commissions on (the) part of government officers’’ would not affect the legal status of the private forests.

Andher Nagari : Mumbai Police & Judiciary

100 court hearings & 14 years later, man walks free in 1 hour  

      Rukmini Shrinivasan | TNN  Mumbai:

       The much-hyped but much-delayed special courts, which the government set up last year to try 1992-93 riots cases, disposed of the first case on Tuesday—a man accused of stealing two cans of groundnut oil 14 years ago was acquitted. Metropolitan magistrate R C Bapat Sarkar took a little over an hour to acquit Abdul Ghaffar, whose case was one of the “priority’’ cases especially chosen by the government to be tried in the new courts.
           Ghaffar (45), a sherbet seller on Mohammed Ali Road, was arrested by the Pydhonie police in May 1993 for “breaking into’’ and “stealing’’ two cans of oil from a godown near his house in December 1992, an offence registered by the Dongri police.

        “Dozens of us were rounded up during those days and charged with offences ranging from theft to murder depending on our ‘look’,’’ Ghaffar said during a break from work at his house near Suleman Usman Bakery. “I was in custody for two-and-a-half months. They beat me up and tortured me in ways that I cannot tell you,’’ he added.

       Charged under Sections 380 (robbery) and 454 (trespass) of the IPC, Ghaffar’s trial began at the Mazgaon magistrate’s court and has seen 100 hearings. “My date would come up every two weeks. I’d go to court, sign my name, and then be told that the case was adjourned. I’d return home by evening, a day’s earnings lost,’’ said Ghaffar. 

       For the last two years, there was no hearing and Ghaffar was told by the police that his case had been put in the dormant file. Then, a few days ago, he got summons asking him to appear in a new magistrate’s court at Fort, he said.

Cops had no proof to link Ghaffar with theft

       Mumbai: With no lawyer, sherbet seller Abdul Ghaffar, who has been acquitted of the charge of stealing two cans of groundnut oil 14 years ago, sat in the courtroom all of Tuesday morning.
          Human rights activist and lawyer Shakil Ahmed of Nirbhay Bano Andolan, which seeks justice for riots victims, had dropped in at the courtroom to see which of the specially selected cases was going on.
          “While the real culprits—politicians and policemen—escape prosecution, ordinary people like Ghaffar have been made to do the rounds of courts for 14 years for minor offences and with no evidence,’’ said Ahmed.
          The lawyer then read the case papers and argued Ghaffar’s case before magistrate Bapat Sarkar.
          Of the three witnesses on record, two were cops and the third—the pancha—said in his statement that he did not know why the police had caught him and that he knew nothing about the case.
          The police had no evidence to link Ghaffar to the two cans they claimed to have recovered. The magistrate acquitted him.
          “I’m just glad that it’s all over. We never wanted to get mixed up with the police. We are only concerned about our family and giving our four children a good education,’’ said Naseem, Ghaffar’s wife  

Gujarat: Provident Fund Office:Man strips to get PF money

Man strips to get PF money

       VADODARA: A 41-year-old man, tired of running from pillar to post for his provident fund (PF), took Gandhigiri to new heights on Wednesday morning. Just like a character in Lage Raho Munnabhai, he stripped in the PF office at Akota to register his protest. The ploy worked. Senior officials have also suspended a clerk for delays and promised him the money before April 15.

       Indravadan Patel had been coming from Atali village to the PF office since January for his Rs 50,000. But officials would ask him to come back another day with one document or another. Patel claimed that an employee had asked for Rs 1,000 bribe which he paid after borrowing from a friend.

      “When I came to submit a form to redeem the money on January 1, I was asked to submit birth certificates of my sons. I submitted them on January 3 and was assured that I would get the money on February 2,” said an agitated Patel, who worked for nine years in a private firm in Karjan that shut down last year.

      “On February 22, my application was rejected. It was sent back to the company which revised the form and returned it to the PF office again. I was then asked to submit my wife’s birth certificate, bank statement and experience certificate.” On Tuesday evening he was told to come on April 10. By then, Patel had lost his patience. He came to the PF office on Wednesday and stripped down to his underwear.

       “I had to sell my wife’s jewellery and borrow money to sustain my family. These people have no heart.” He admitted that he was not only inspired by Munnabhai but also Pooja Chauhan, the woman in Rajkot who had stripped and walked the streets in Rajkot to protest.

      The police have booked him for indecency in public but Patel has filed a police complaint against PF officials for mental harassment.

       Regional PF officer MP Sinha immediately suspended clerk Nagendra Kumar. “His claim is due for settlement before April 15. I will ensure that he gets his dues,” he said.

RTI: Delhi Police reluctant to give information

          RTI: Delhi Police must realise times are changing.


        Delhi Police demands Rs 24,500 for answering RTI question

          The Right to Information ( RTI) Act, enforced in 2005 to ensure transparency in the government’s functioning, is now being “ misused” by the Delhi Police as a way of making quick money.

      Reena Banerjee, director of Nav Shrishti, a Delhi- based NGO working for child and women’s rights, was in for a rude shock when she filed an RTI application with the Delhi Police asking for details of children who went missing or were kidnapped in the Capital last December.

         The NGO received a letter from Delhi West and South West district police, which stated that she could get the relevant information if she coughed up Rs 12,224 for each district. According to RTI rules, an applicant needs to shell out no more than Rs 2 per page — if at all the applicant has asked for photocopies of certain documents.

       Banerjee said, “ Why should the police demand an unreasonable amount to part with information, which the Centre is supposed to provide free of cost to its citizens?”

        According to the Delhi Police’s reply to Banerjee’s RTI application, “ A sub- inspector at Rs 773 per day for a day, a head constable at Rs 451 per day for a day and 13 constables at Rs 425 per day for two days would be needed for the information to be gathered.”

        The total amounted to Rs 12, 224 for each of the two districts. She has now complained to the Central Information Commission ( CIC), the supreme authority looking after the RTI, and is waiting for a response. Deputy commissioner of police ( South West District) Shalini Singh said: “ The information the applicant had asked for is not readily available with us and will require many policemen to work in tandem. We had to ask for extra charges, and a breakup of the cost was given to the applicant in writing.”

        She said the department had no problem giving out information that are “ readily available” at respective police stations without extra charge. Santosh Jha, an RTI activist of Parivartan, an organisation working to ensure just, transparent and accountable governance, said demanding money to provide information under the RTI was “ unlawful”.

        “ We have come across several cases in other states as well where the Public Information Officer ( PIO) has demanded money to give information.

        It is illegal. According to the RTI Act, all information is to be provided free of cost to the citizens, regardless of how much staff is required to collect the data and how much time it takes,” Jha said.

       rohit. wadhwaney@ mailtoday. in

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