Forest land scam: HC notice to BJP legislator, Gujarat government

Ahmedabad: After almost two decades in power, the corroding rust in the rulers in Gujarat is beginning to show up. Babu Bokhiria, BJP legislator from Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbandar and a former minister, is once again in controversy as the Gujarat High Court has issued a notice to him and the state government based on a PIL alleging illegal transfer of forest land in favour of him and his family members.

The former minister, who was, in 2013, convicted in a Rs 53 crore illegal limestone mining case, but subsequently cleared of the charge, now faces allegations against the illegal transfer of forest land said to value over Rs 300 crores in the adjoining Jamnagar district.

The charges against the BJP leader were made by Paradva Gram Panchayat in Jamjodhpur tehsil of Jamnagar district,  which had moved the PIL last year.

It came up for hearing last month before a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice AJ Shastri, which issued notices to the state government, the Jamnagar district collector, the district forest officer, and Bokhiria, and marked it for further hearing on December 13.

The petition alleges that Bokhiria, his son, and son-in-law “forged and fabricated power of attorney” to acquire a piece of land in Paradva village. The land, measuring 200 hectares, was already declared as reserve forest and is home to valuable medicinal and other trees, several wild animals, including leopards and over 3000 spotted deer it stated.

However, since it has rich deposits of limestone, used for manufacturing cement, the petition alleged that Bokhiria was using his influence in the government to acquire it through “fraudulent acts”.

“Two hundred hectares of land is very rich so far as forest is concerned. A hundred thousand trees have been planted and naturally grown, which are valuable commercially or otherwise. Therefore, Babubhai Bokhiria wants to exploit this forest land for his personal purpose and undertook this malicious exercise,” said the PIL.

It was also alleged therein that the Jamnagar  district collector was helping him in getting the forest land converted into a regular land, which can then be put to use for industrial purposes.