Punjab environment and forest ministry gives clean chit to IFS officer, says no illegal tree felling

Saurabh Prashar
The ministry was probing the allegations of illegal felling of trees in Kandi belt near Mohali. (File)

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has given a clean chit to 1985 batch Punjab IFS officer Harsh Kumar stating that felling of trees under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980, was done under the permissible limit. The ministry was probing the allegations of illegal felling of trees in Kandi belt near Mohali.

The probe officer, Additional Director General, Chandigarh, CD Singh, of MoEF stated in his five-page report that no illegal felling of trees under FCA, 1980, was reported by the state (Punjab) government. The report was filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on June 11. The probe against Kumar was started following the NGT directions in September 2018.

A Jalandhar-based environmentalist, Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, filed a petition against Kumar in NGT. Before this probe, the IFS officer had been chargesheeted by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, but the charge sheet was stayed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in July 2018.

The petitioner, Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, told Chandigarh Newsline, I was stunned to know about this development. I am the petitioner and till now I have not been informed about the clean chit to Harsh Kumar by MoEF, which is probing my complaint. IFS Harsh Kumar managed all the affairs and saved himself at the highest level. I will definitely challenge the clean chit once I get the probe report.

However, Kumar termed the allegations against him vendetta by his rival IAS and IFS officers close to the current political regime in Punjab. Kumar said, I ordered the felling of trees because it was necessary. My decision was in the interest of forest. The petitioner, Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, acted at the behest of a particular lobby of IAS and IFS officers. I had been issued a chargesheet by the Punjab CM without any proper inquiry.

IFS Kumar had allowed Raja Shivdev Inder Singh of Jyanti Majri village of Mohali district to fell trees on his private land in November 2017. The orders were reportedly issued despite NGT s blanket ban.