NAJAR writes to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India seeking timely intervention to stay / halt construction of the proposed new Jammu & Kashmir High Court complex on the Raika Forest land. Over 60 practicing lawyers, researchers, activists, law faculty and students endorsed the letter.

Download the letter here: NAJAR Letter to CJI on J&K HC and Raika Forest Land or read it below.

17th May, 2024

Hon’ble Justice D Y Chandrachud,
Chief Justice of India,
Supreme Court of India,
Tilak Marg,
New Delhi-110001

Subject: Seeking Timely Intervention by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India to Stay / Halt Construction of the Proposed New Jammu & Kashmir High Court Complex on the Raika Forest Land. 

Hon’ble Sir,

The National Alliance for Justice, Accountability & Rights (NAJAR) is writing to express our deep concern over the diversion of forest land for the building of the new High Court complex at Jammu. We seek timely intervention by your Hon’ble self to Stay / Halt Construction of the proposed New Jammu & Kashmir High Court Complex on the Raika Forest Land.

As reported a few months back, the Supreme Court while hearing another case relating to filling up vacancies and reducing case-pendency at CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal), had sought progress on the construction of the new Jammu High Court complex.  The new High Court complex is proposed to be built on the protected Raika Forestland located alongside the River Tawi, the main river in Jammu. Tawi is an important tributary of the River Chenab, a major river in the Jammu region, known to fall under an ecologically sensitive zone. The construction will entail the felling of 38,000 trees, causing irreparable harm and destruction to the ecology in Jammu. Apart from this, we understand that more than 40 hectares of forest land will be diverted and at least 60 families belonging to the Gujjar community will be displaced.

Our country has adopted the Precautionary Principle as the accepted law of our land. Reading Article 21 (Right to Life) of our Indian Constitution with Article 48-A mandates the State to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. Article 51-A(g) mandates every citizen to inter alia, protect and improve the environment.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has repeatedly laid emphasis upon the need to protect forests and has upheld the right to life in the context of environmental protection including forest spaces. It has recorded that economic development at the cost of degradation of the environment and depletion of forest cover cannot be long-lasting and that the health of the environment is key to preserving the right to life as a constitutionally recognized value under Article 21 of the Constitution. It has also stated that the concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ posits controlled development – the need to preserve our natural environment for not only the present but also, the future generations. Development is also, not confined to the limited idea of infrastructural development. India has adopted the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and is bound to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Therefore, it is imperative to take timely, pre-emptive action to save forest land and trees.

Despite the above, unfortunately, both the diversion of forest land and trees and the manner in which the decision and forest clearances were taken, violate the above mandates.

  1. Environmental impacts ignored: The proposed forest land is an ecologically valuable and vulnerable area that falls under the Eco-Sensitive area of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary, and is located only 3.75 km from the sanctuary, with part of the area falling within the Bahu Game Reserve.  Despite the ecological sensitivity of the area, the clearance was allowed, with the clearance process done in a cursory manner and without a proper record of requisite detailed environmental impact assessments.
  2. Project cleared without debate and discussion, during the suspension of civil and political rights: The project was cleared during the period between the abrogation of 370 in August 2019 and before the enactment of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act on 31st October 2019. There was neither any elected government in place nor were people’s political and civil rights in place, for these rights including the right to information, media and communication access, free speech, and free movement, were all suspended at the time.
  3. Hasty appraisal processes: The process of project appraisal for forest clearance and wildlife clearance was conducted in extreme haste. The proposal passed from the Divisional Forest Officer through the various Conservators of Forest including the Chief Conservator & Principal Conservator, followed by in-principle approval of the project by the Forest Advisory Committee (J&K), within a span of just a few days! Similarly, the wildlife clearance was issued within a very short span of time.  Could there have even been the time to consider the serious environmental fall-outs?
  4. Violating even the limited conditions that were imposed: Apart from the above, the conditions included by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests in his project-recommendation have also been flouted. These include – the condition that residential buildings/colonies shall not be allowed to be constructed on forest land, despite which the proposed complex has included accommodation for judges and staff on forest land.
  5. Displacement of Gujjar families, pending FRA process: Almost 60 Gujjar families are dependent on the forest land that has been demarcated for the diversion. They have applied for recognition of their forest rights under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act 2006. We understand that the application is pending before the Jammu High Court. It would be a violation of law to proceed with any diversion of or construction on the said land, without full and fair settlement of their rights under the FRA, 2006.

In light of all the above, we request urgent intervention by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, to take suo moto notice of this matter. We urge that the Jammu High Court Complex be located in an alternative place that is not ecologically sensitive. It is reported that the present High Court complex at Jammu is adequate to accommodate the new complex. Accordingly, it is necessary to explore whether the present complex has adequate space to accommodate future requirements.

We respectfully submit that the construction of the Jammu High Court Complex be stayed/halted on the ecologically sensitive Raika Forest land. This is necessary to honour the Precautionary Principle, to save our environment and eco-systems, and, in keeping with Article 21 read with Articles 48A and 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution and the various International Conventions and Protocols that India has signed and ratified to protect the environment.

We urge that such a step would send a positive symbol of hope for environmental justice among the people of India and more particularly, among the people of Jammu. A High Court Complex itself being a symbol of justice, must only be set up where it is in harmony with our environment.

Sincerely and with great hope,

Sl. No. Name Law Professional Category Location
1 Indira Unninayar Practising Lawyer Gurugram NCR
2 Zainulabideen Law Student Hubli/Karnataka
3 Mitha S Gopalakrishna Law Student Hubli/ Dharwad, Karnataka
4 Priyanka Singh Practising Lawyer Lucknow Uttar Pradesh
5 Meera Sanghamitra Activist (Law Graduate) Hyderabad, Telangana
6 Shalini Gera Practising Lawyer Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
7 Khalil ur Rehaman Law Student Dharwad/Karnataka
8 Katyayani Chandola Activist (Law Graduate) Delhi
9 Pyoli Practising Lawyer Delhi
10 Vimla Kumari Practising Lawyer New Delhi
11 Purbayan Chakraborty Practising Lawyer Bengaluru, Karnataka
12 Ritu Singh Mann Practising Lawyer Noida
13 Sara Law Researcher Chennai
14 Muskan Tibrewala Practising Lawyer Delhi
15 Lalchand Panwar Practising Lawyer Jodhpur Rajasthan
16 T Mohan Practising Lawyer Chennai, Tamil Nadu
17 L.Margaret Practising Lawyer Chennai Tamilnadu
18 M.Nithya Practising Lawyer Erode
19 Dhruva Practising Lawyer Chennai
20 Adv Dr Shalu Nigam Practising Lawyer Delhi NCR
21 Gayatri Singh Practising Lawyer Mumbai Maharashtra
22 D. Sornambal Practising Lawyer Chennai, Tamil Nadu
23 Tribhuvan Gaur Practising Lawyer Delhi
24 M. Ananada Muni Rajan Practising Lawyer Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
25 Jayanthi M Practising Lawyer Tamil nadu
26 Saravana Vel Practising Lawyer Chennai
27 Keren Sam Practising Lawyer Chennai
28 PVS Giridhar Practising Lawyer Chennai
29 Devika Rani Practising Lawyer Chennai
30 Thirukkumaresan M Practising Lawyer Kamuthi Taluka, Ramathapuram Dist, TN
31 Jawad A J Practising Lawyer Chennai
32 Usharani Law Student Peraiyur/ Madurai/Tamil Nadu
33 Ruthrasri Law Student Chagalpattu, Chennai
34 Ujjwal Kumar Practising Lawyer Godda, Jharkhand
35 Zaffarullah Khan Practising Lawyer Chennai, Tamil Nadu
36 Prashanthi.P Law Student Chennai
37 Lita Srinivasan Practising Lawyer Chennai, TN
38 Rajee Activist (Law Graduate) Madras Tamil Nadu
39 Mithera Paul Practising Lawyer Chennai
40 Dr.D.Nisar Ahmed Law Faculty Chennai
41 Manivel Dhandapani Practising Lawyer Chennai/ Thiruvallur/ Tamilnadu
42 Kanimozhi A Law Student Thiruthani taluka, Thiruvallur district & Tamil Nadu
43 Henri Tiphagne Practising Lawyer Madurai, TamilNadu
44 A.Thulasi Law Student Dharapuram,Thirupur, Tamil Nadu
45 Krithika A Dinesh Law Researcher Delhi
46 Lal ji Kaithwas Practising Lawyer Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
47 Harpuneet Kaur Law Student Chandigarh, Punjab
48 Manoj Selvaraj Practising Lawyer Delhi
49 Mandakini Activist (Law Graduate) Hyderabad
50 Ashish Reddy Practising Lawyer Hyderabad, Telangana
51 Bhavishya Sudan Practising Lawyer Jammu
52 Mohd Aquib Practising Lawyer Rajouri, J&K
53 Adv Naveed Bukhtiyar Practising Lawyer Srinagar
54 Faisal bashir shah Activist (Law Graduate) Srinagar
55 Saqib Shabir Practising Lawyer Srinagar
56 Kamran Rashid Practising Lawyer Srinagar
57 Advocate Shabir Practising Lawyer District Bandipora
58 Mohd Akram Practising Lawyer Jammu
59 Ameya Law Researcher Bangalore, Karnataka
60 Dinesh C. Mali Practising Lawyer Jodhpur Rajasthan
61 Purnima Upadhyay Activist (Law Graduate) Maharashtra


  1. T.N Godavarman v. Union of India (1997) 2 SCC 267
  2. Hanuman Laxman Aroskar v. Union of India (2019) 15 SCC 401


NAPM India