Delhi Police Commissioner Bassi May Face Prosecution Over Forest Act Violation
New Delhi: Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi is in the line of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s fire.
The top cop looks set to face charges of violating the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, after a Mail Today investigation on May 17 exposed a systemic massacre of a green swathe as big as a dozen adjoining football fields.
The issue has the potential to turn into another flashpoint between Delhi Police, which reports to the Union home ministry, and the city government, whose MLAs are facing police action.
Delhi’s forest department, which is part of the Arvind Kejriwal government, had on Wednesday conducted a field inquiry in the affected area in northeast Delhi and found FCA violations. The department left it for the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to decide who carried out the butchery on the green area.
An initial probe by the DDA, the land-owning agency, has found Delhi Police to be responsible for the single largest deforestation in the Capital’s history.
In case the offence is established, an FCA violation means 15-day incarceration for the offender. Bassi became Delhi Police’s chief in 2013, though the scrub forest was cleared over a decade.
Bassi may not be personally responsible for the slaughtering of green cover, but FCA provisions apply to department heads. The forest department, which conducted its inquiry following a communication from the chief minister’s office, sent a notice to Delhi Police on June 11 but has not still received a reply. It will send its report to the city government and DDA on Friday.
The DDA, which prima facie blamed Delhi Police, will also issue a notice to the police commissioner.
“Any area spread over 2.5 acres with 100 trees is covered under the forest Act. The scrub forest has been cleared…and a large quantity of soil removed. Law will take its own course,” forest department head Tarun Coomar said.
Mail Today’s phone call, text message and email to Bassi went unanswered. But the Delhi Police denied the charge.
“It’s not only the Delhi Police that’s there in the area. There are other agencies too at the site,” a police officer said.
Speaking to Mail Today on May 19, Special Commissioner of Police (Training) Krishan Kumar had denied that the Delhi Police’s training camp was in any way responsible for the deforestation.
So what happens now? The chief conservator of forests (CCF), the nodal officer to deal with the cases of FCA violations, will issue a show-cause notice and conduct an inquiry. He will then send his report to the regional forest office in Lucknow, which is a branch of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF). The regional office will carry out its own inquiry and, if satisfied, file a case in the Tis Hazari court.
The DDA’s investigation has found that the area is with Delhi Police and that the clearing for a firing range happened systematically over the past eight-ten years.
The agency’s vice-chairperson Balvinder Kumar said: “Prima facie the area in question is with Delhi Police and the clearing has happened systematically for a firing range.”
Delhi’s Law Minister and local MLA Kapil Mishra said: “This is a criminal act on the part of Delhi Police. When they themselves commit such crime, who will act against them?”
He added: “We will take back the land and restore the lost greenery.”
Environmentalist Manoj Misra, who first raised the issue with the government, said the culprit agency must vacate the land and restore the greenery.