A division bench of the BHC at Goa comprising Justice Ms Revati Mohite Dere and Justice Ms M.S. Jawalkar by its order dated 28.10.2021 has stayed clause 2(iii) of the office memorandum issued by the District Collector (North) which excluded lands with area below one hectare going to the forest department for  its report.

The petitioner (Goa Foundation) represented by Adv. Anamika Gode, argued that it is only the Forest Department that has the necessary expertise to consider the natural vegetation with tree canopy density. Therefore any such exclusion was wrong and bound to be set aside.

The petitioner produced before the High Court copies of earlier High Court orders directing all lands for conversion must go to the forest department, and the Supreme Court’s order dated 4.2.2015 which prohibited conversion of lands which were in excess of one ha and had a canopy density 10% and above.

Petitioner alleged that because of the Collector’s memorandum (itself based on a questionable letter dated 7.10.2020 issued by the Forest Department’s headquarters), people with areas in excess of one hectare were subdividing the plots so that each plot was below one hectare prior to making conversion applications. The Collectors were then issuing conversion sanads even though the file had not been routed to the forest department and despite the order of the Supreme Court.

The petitioner cited the case of Sy.No.85/1 of Calangute village which is part of Calangute’s biggest remaining green zone which was likewise broken up by the party concerned (family of Jaydev Mody, Goa’s casino owner) into 4 segments to bypass the Forest Department and Supreme Court’s order.

The Court stayed clause 2(iii) of the Collector’s memorandum and also restrained the private parties from felling any trees.

The case is now posted to 26.11.2021.