New Delhi, Dec 12 (PTI) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slapped a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on an individual for cutting down 228 trees on a private land falling in the Mangar Bani forest area in Haryana’s Faridabad district.

A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim said the land was owned by Dev Raj Kamboj and governed under a notification issued under Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act by the State of Haryana where “no non-forest activity was permissible”.

The green panel said that Kamboj was responsible for the illegal activity and directed him to deposit the money with the Haryana Forest Department within a month.

“It is difficult to accept the plea of innocence put forward by Respondent No. 5 (Kamboj) that he does not know who has felled the trees and keeping mind the fact that he is admittedly the owner of the land and therefore had legal duty to ensure that no illegal activity is committed upon it…

“An activity, and non-forest activity, which is prohibited on the land in question has been allowed to be done and consequently it is irrelevant who has done it. What matters is who has failed to ensure such activity is not conducted?” the bench said.

The judgement came on a plea filed by Lt. Col. (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi, alleging that the land owner has almost chopped off 1,000 trees on the site in question and was making attempts to clear the vegetation.

The plea, filed through advocates Rahul Choudhary and Meera Gopal, had also claimed construction of ‘kaccha’ road by the owner on a large part of the forest area of Mangar village of Faridabad.

According to the applicant, the site was half-a-kilometre away from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi and part of forest between sanctuary and Mangar forest.

Kamboj opposed the plea, saying there were no trees in the area which he owned except for “Mexican Mexquite” tree species known as “Vilayati Kikar” and that he was not involved in any tree felling.

According to him, some unknown persons in connivance with the forest department trespassed on his land and a complaint in this regard was lodged but no action has been taken.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.