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Oct 19, 2012 at 07:41pm IST

DLF in fresh row as Haryana seeks SC approval for commercial use of forest land

New Delhi: The government of Haryana, embattled over allegations of bending over backwards to facilitate land deals involving Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, has now triggered a fresh controversy. The state government has submitted an application in the Supreme Court where forest land in the state has been shown as barren land, in a bid to secure permission to construct a golf course and a mini-city in Gurgaon.

The document, available with CNN-IBN, shows that Haryana government submitted an application stating that 161 acres of the 350 acre Aravalli forest is "barren land" while seeking permission to build a green city, which includes waterways, roads, amusement and recreation centres and a golf course.

Curiously, Haryana's petition also states that the land is home to over "12000 plant species" - a contradiction of its claim of the land being barren. When CNN-IBN traveled to the controversial site, the site appeared to be a part of the Aravalli forest. In 2004, the Supreme Court had ordered that Aravalli plantations were a forest and that no mining or non-forestry activity could be undertaken in the Aravalli area without permissions from Central government.

Environment Lawyer Ritwick Dutta says, "Under the Forest provision of the Forest Conservation Act, forestland should not be diverted for any non-forest purposes. Non-forest purposes include cutting down, breaking up of land for any purposes other than those ancillary to conservation. Ancillary to conservation means... and has been given in the Act... is watch-tower, fire lines, water holes, meant for protection of wildlife and forest. In this particular case, going by the documents its very clear that golf course, recreational centre, a cart, bicycle track by no stretch of imagination can be taken as ancillary to conservation."

The Supreme Court referred the Haryana government's application to the Central Empowered Committee in 2010. The Committee has submitted its report to the court, which is expected to issue an order soon. DLF has refused to comment on our story insisting that the matter is sub-judice. The key question that now arises is whether the Haryana government deliberately suppress the facts in order to get green permits for its dream project.

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