Mahananda Spa and Resorts Ltd v. Ministry of Environment and Forest

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India has delivered its judgement in the case of Mahananda Spa and Resorts Ltd v. Ministry of Environment and Forest. The case revolves around allegations of environmental damage and unauthorized construction in forest areas. The Court’s decision carries implications for the interpretation and enforcement of environmental laws.


  • The Appellant, a Journalist and Editor of Jan Lok Kesari, filed an application in public interest concerned about environmental damage caused by certain parties.
  • Allegations of large-scale tree felling in private forests at Patti Dhamnsu, Narendranagar, District Tehri Garhwal in Khasra No.512 and 514.
  • Complaints of blasting activities in the fragile Himalayan region by the same parties.
  • Environment clearance granted for construction totaling 32,686 sq. meters after site inspection.
  • Khasra no.512 and 513 recorded as private forests in revenue records, hence attracting the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Committee inspection by Ms. Komal Preet, Conservator of Forest, and Dr. S.C. Katiyar, Scientist E on 05.01.2019.
  • Observations during site visit showed construction at the resort on part of khasra no.605 with degraded forest land.
  • Fine imposed for tree damage under U.P. Protection of Trees in Rural and Hills Areas Act, 1976.
  • Absence of fresh tree felling at the site according to the forest department.
  • Official directive to conduct an enquiry for identification and legal action against those responsible for violations.
  • Khasra No 512 and 514 are determined to be ‘Private forest’ land based on revenue records and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Forest Department and MoEF are directed to take action for violations of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 in Khasra No 512 & 513 regarding non-forestry activities such as unauthorized constructions.
  • Specifically mentioned were the existence of independent villas in Khasra No 512 & 513.

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  • Initially, the construction of 9 Mahananda Spa and Resorts Limited was to be done in 5702.20 sq. meters with a sanctioned building plan.
  • Environment clearance is required only if the built-up area of a project exceeds 20,000 sq. meters, as per the notification dated 14.09.2006.
  • Land in Khasra No.605 is neither classified as forest land nor forest-like in revenue records.
  • Progressive reduction in the forest area of Khasra No.605 was observed by the Forest Survey of India and forest authorities.
  • Oak and Kukat trees were cut, and construction was started by Mahananda Spa and Resorts Pvt. Ltd. without Forest Act clearance.
  • Legal precedents like M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and Kerala State Coastal Zone Management Authority v. State of Kerala were cited against unauthorized constructions.
  • Erstwhile promoters’ entire shareholding in Mahananda Spa and Resorts Pvt. Ltd was sold to Mankind Pharmaceuticals Limited.
  • The Appellant’s grievance regarding non-implementation of directions for Khasra No.512 and 514 was not challenged by the Respondents.
  • The main dispute focused on whether Khasra No.605 constitutes a deemed forest and falls under the Forest (Conservation) Act, per Appellant’s submission.
  • Reference was made to the judgement in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India for interpreting the term ‘forest’.
  • Google images from 2007 to 2014 were cited as evidence.
  • The Respondent argued that no trees were felled as claimed by the Appellant.
  • It was stated that the construction carried out by the Respondent was done with all required sanctions and approvals, which were uncontested in any legal forum.

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  • The Committee did not consider the revenue records in their assessment, which were old and unreliable.
  • The Tribunal rejected the Forest Survey of India report as it contradicted the revenue records, stating Khasra No.605 is only 10.39 hectares.
  • The Committee assumed the total area of Khasra No.605 to be 18.02 hectares, leading to the conclusion of degradation due to construction.
  • The observation indicated that Khasra No.605 was not deemed a forest by the Forest Department in a previous report.
  • During inspection, no evidence of blasting operations or fresh tree felling was found near the Okhla Bird Sanctuary.
  • The Appellant relied on the FSI report from 01.05.2017, highlighting Khasra No.605 as barren land per revenue records.
  • The Tribunal noted discrepancies in the FSI report regarding the actual area of Khasra No.605 as per revenue records.
  • An application was filed for a site inspection due to ongoing construction in the alleged forest area by the Appellant.
  • The report acknowledged a gradual degradation of the forest in Khasra No.605.
  • Khasra No.605 is determined to be banjar or barren land, making the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act inapplicable.
  • Forest Department and Ministry of Environment and Forest of Uttarakhand have failed to act on the directions of the Tribunal regarding Khasra No.512 and 514.
  • The judgment in Godavarman’s case establishes that the Forest Conservation Act is applicable to all lands recorded as forest in revenue records.
  • The provisions of the Forest Conservation Act do not apply to Khasra No.605.

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  • The judgment of the Tribunal is upheld and the appeal is dismissed.
  • An inquiry has been directed by the Tribunal to be completed within three months.
  • Immediate action is to be taken following the completion of the inquiry.


Case Number: C.A. No.-004452 / 2019

Click here to read/download original judgement

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