Delhi High Court judge Justice Najmi Waziri, famously known as the ‘green judge’ for his penchant for lush vegetation and efforts to involve litigants in planting 3.7 lakh trees across the national capital, Friday urged the citizens to take charge of the plantation drive as the government cannot do everything alone.
Justice Waziri, who was speaking at the full court farewell reference organised by the high court on his superannuation, said he found that when there is a scope or chance of healing the wounds and making amends, the best way possible was to direct the litigants to do something for the city, its environment and neighbourhood.
“It seemed a more prudent way of utilising people’s money and time than by sending the costs imposed on various parties into various funds where it may lie unutilised for decades to come,” he said.
Judges of the Delhi High Court, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, Justice Waziri’s family members and friends, lawyers and court staff were present at the farewell programme.
Delhi High Court Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma said “social justice” has been the “hallmark” of Justice Waziri’s judicial outlook.
“I am certain that your work will leave a lasting impact on the society. With your services rendered in different capacities, the system has benefitted immensely. Today, you are leaving the system better than you had found it,” Justice Sharma said.
Referring to Justice Waziri’s efforts for planting trees in Delhi, the chief justice said, “Not only one life rather multiple generations will breathe easier because you lived.”
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said Justice Waziri got 3.70 lakh trees planted starting from July 2018 from the southern ridge to central ridge in the form of ‘Maafi Bagh’
(garden of forgiveness) and ‘Insaaf Bagh’ (garden of justice).
He said Rs 2.38 crore has been escrowed in the Green Delhi Fund, the green account whose money is to be used for further plantation.
“There is a whole new ecosystem in place on lands which were lying fallow . This is your concern for the environment,” the ASG said, adding that besides being a ‘green judge’, Justice Waziri also pronounced many important judgments, including on anti-dumping, tax laws, arbitration and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) matters.
Justice Waziri recalled the evening when he returned home after his first day as judge and said his younger daughter, who was 12 years old then and had witnessed an impressive oath taking ceremony that morning, cosied up to him and innocently asked “Abba kya tum kar paoge”, wondering if “I was up to the job”.
“That question actually became a challenge to serve, strive each day to live up to the expectations which are there from the judge of a high court. Her innocent question soon became a question of what justice actually meant to the people under a social contract that is Constitution of India and the rights and duties embodied in it,” he said.
He also advised the members of the bar to “prepare, prepare and prepare” for cases and added as a judge he had only expected lawyers assisting the court to be well prepared with the facts and law.
Justice Waziri said many lawyers came to his court to join the process of greening the city and to do their bit to “halt the environment degradation”.
“Boond boond se hi sagar banta hai. Every single effort, every tree that has been planted here that has taken root in its soil will count in the years ahead,” he said.
“I can say that it has been a very rewarding effort as 3.7 lakh trees have been planted and 20,000 more are in the process of being planted. We have enough money for 2.5 lakh more trees to be planted that is already kept in the escrow account,” he said.
He added the court has named it ‘Green Delhi Fund’ which can go ahead only with the participation of people.
Justice Waziri, who concluded his speech with a famous couplet of poet Sahir Ludhianvi, completed LL.B. from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University and enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1987. He was elevated as an additional judge of the high court on April 17, 2013 and appointed as permanent judge on March 18, 2015.
Justice Waziri had once ruled that a tree is a living being, which must be given a “last look” and accorded a final inspection by the authorities concerned before permission is granted for its felling or extensive pruning.
He set aside the guidelines permitting regular pruning of branches of trees with girth upto 15.7 cm without specific prior permission of the Tree Officer.
Justice Waziri recently junked DDA’s proposal to replace the natural green grass at Siri Fort Sports Complex with artificial turf while emphasising that green area in the midst of a thickly populated residential place is of a far greater value than a faraway forest.
In the last couple of years, he dealt with several petitions arising from non-compliance of judicial orders on preservation and protection of trees and directed wide-scale afforestation and de-concretization of trees on the road-side.
In May, he directed two city police officials to plant 100 fruit bearing trees after they got into an altercation with a lawyer over protecting trees from damage due an ongoing civil work by a government agency.
In the same month, he also sentenced two PWD officials to simple imprisonment for contempt of court in view of their “recalcitrance” to follow the law and court orders in relation to conservation of trees in CR Park.
Significantly, while heading a division bench in June last year, he had directed the Centre to ensure that no money and patronage is given to those National Sports Federations which were not functioning in compliance with the law on administration of sports in the country.
The division bench headed by Justice Waziri also struck down as illegal the posts of Life President, Life Member and CEO in the Managing Committee of Hockey India and constituted a three-member committee of administrators to conduct its affairs.