Passing the orders, the court of Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi (Retd) said that their “presence was essential for producing the relevant records in the case.”
The NGT order has come after a committee report had concluded that the portion of this road had not been approved under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) by the divisional forest officer (DF0), Kaza, and no permission was taken from the executive engineer (XEN) of HPPWD, Spiti, either.
The NGT had ordered the formation of a committee after Ram Singh, a resident of Spiti, had sent a complaint to the Tribunal in April this year alleging that “under the supervision of the XEN of Kaza division of the HPPWD, a road of the length of 8 kms from Poh Maidan to Dhankar was constructed and widened by back-cutting without seeking permission under FRA from the concerned authority.”
The complainant had alleged that “permission was taken deliberately for a road length of just 1.7 kms and has thereby caused substantial damage to the most fragile strata in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh.” Considering serious nature of the allegations, the NGT had ordered formation of a “join committee” consisting of conservator of forests, Kangra, district magistrate of Lahaul and Spiti and the state Pollution Control Bord officials. The committee was asked to visit the road site and take appropriate action. The committee members, after visiting the road site in May this year, had submitted a report to the NGT, stating that four separate FRA permissions for 9.4 kms length of the four sections of the 12.2 kms road from Poh Maidan to Takchan were taken from the DFO, Kaza.
However, no permission was taken for the construction of the fifth section of the road (2.8 kms) from Gecha to Helipad, stated the report. The committee in its had termed this additional construction as illegal.
“The additional 2.8 km road length from Gecha to Helipad has been constructed illegally by XEN, HPPWD, Kaza, for which no approval has been taken,” stated the report.
According to the report, even the four permissions were not according to the provisions of the FRA. “The four approvals granted by the DFO, Kaza, is for a linear road, which is in contravention of Forest Rights Act, 2006,” stated the report.
The next hearing in this case is in January, 2023.