Taking a grim note of illegal encroachments on a land near Noida meant for a firing and bombing range of the IAF, the Allahabad High Court has asked defence authorities and district officials to get back possession of the tracts that may have been grabbed. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D B Bhosle and Justice Yashwant Verma passed the order yesterday while allowing the public interest litigation of Noida resident Ajit Singh, who had drawn the court's attention towards the illegal encroachments and sought directions to "get the land freed from the clutches of land grabbers" and to order an inquiry and "initiate criminal proceedings" against erring officials. A total of 482 acres of land was acquired for the IAF vide a notification issued way back in 1950.
The land was spread across two villages of Gautam Buddh Nagar which at the time of acquisition fell under Bulandshahr district of western Uttar Pradesh. The court directed a high-level committee, set up to look into the matter and comprising defence and district administration officials, to ensure "immediate correction of land records" and "preparation of village maps" and consider "initiating appropriate disciplinary as well as penal action" against "errant officials". The committee was set up vide an order of the court passed on May 19, 2015, shortly after the PIL was filed. The court also asked the Chairman of Uttar Pradesh Revenue Board to "personally monitor the matter" and "ensure that all necessary cooperation is extended to the committee in locating records and making available all necessary information and material that would be required to pursue and protect the interests of the Indian Air Force". "It is open to the Committee to launch criminal prosecution, whenever and wherever they find it necessary, not only against the errant officers but even the encroachers", the court added. Additional Solicitor General of India Ashok Mehta had argued on behalf of Union of India, the main respondent in the matter, while senior advocate Anoop Trivedi represented the petitioner.