In a striking Judgement, the Bombay High Court expressed its strong displeasure on harassment by the revenue and forest authorities, Government of Maharashtr over the Private Forest matter of Shabbir Morbiwala & Rehana Morbiwala, inspite of the Supreme Court Orders.
The Petitioners are the owners of Land situated in Wada, Thane District, Maharashtra. Adv Ameet Mehta, Managing Partner of Law Firm Solicis Lex stated that ''the Petitioners had obtained all the necessary permissions from the concerned authorities and got the said Land converted into Non-Agricultural Land. In the year 2010, the Petitioners received a notice from the Forest Department, stating therein that the said Land has been declared as a "Private Forest" in the year 1953 and that the said Land belongs to the Government of Maharashtra & all the activities are now illegal''.
Ms Monica Jagtap, Senior Partner at Solicis Lex while speaking to Live Law said that ''the Petitioners had constructed & completed the development of the said Land before receiving the Notice from the Forest Department' and inspite of informing the same to department, there was no response''.
Adv Chirag Desai, Solicis Lex said that ''the Petitioners being aggrieved by the notice, filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court in one of the SLP of the Godrej & Boyce and the same was allowed by the Apex Court in the year 2014''
Pursuant to the order passed by the Apex Court, the Petitioners, thereafter, approached various concerned authorities of the Forest Department of Maharashtra. But to the utter shock, no heed was paid to the grievances raised by the Petitioners and instead of complying with the order of the SC an FIR was lodged against the Petitioners. Thereafter, the Petitioners had to approach the Hon'ble Bombay High Court for Writ of Mandamus directing the authorities of the Forest Department to record and declare that the said Land is not Private Forest and further to restore the names of the Petitioners as owners of the said lands, amongst other reliefs.
The Division Bench of the Bombay High Court held that "…The decision of the Supreme Court clearly was that where no notice under section 35(3) of the India Forest Act was shown to have been issued and served, there would be no vesting or deemed acquisition of the land under the Maharashtra Private Forest (Acquisition) Act, 1976."
Adv Aayush Shah, Solicis Lex, mentioned that ''the Bombay High Court allowed the said Petition, quashed & set aside all the subsequent orders issued by the authorities after the verdict passed by the Apex Court and directed the revenue authority to restore the names of the Petitioners as owners of the said lands. In fact, a strong displeasure was expressed by Bombay High Court on not following orders of Apex Court''.
The Hon'ble HC made sure that the Order passed by them was compiled within a period of two weeks and based on these remarks, the authorities complied with the order of the Bombay High Court. Counsel SS Patwardhan along with Bhavin Gada argued the matter and pointed out various citations favouring Petitioners apart from interpreting the Supreme Court Orders.