Delhi HC seeks stand of city officials on contempt plea over damage to heritage trees

The Delhi High Court Thursday sought the stand of three city government officials on a plea seeking contempt action against them for allegedly causing damage to century-old “heritage” trees for widening a road.

The petitioner alleged the action of the officials was in violation of juridical orders mandating government departments to minimise damage to the environment while undertaking projects and requiring the tree officer to spell out reasons while allowing felling of trees.

Stating that the incident revealed a shocking state of affairs, Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to public works department (PWD) and forest department officials on the contempt plea and directed them to maintain status quo.

“This (the damage to trees) shows shocking state of affairs as trees more than 100 years old have been cut down without application of mind and complying with the directions,” the court said.

“Issue notice.. in the meantime, respondents are directed to maintain status quo,” it added and listed the case for hearing on January 15.

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Petitioner Rohit Bhatnagar, represented by advocate Aditya N Prasad, alleged in his plea that earlier this month several trees along Lok Marg/Om Mandir Marg were “completely devoid of everything but their main trunk” and around 15 such trees “were going to be felled” pursuant to an order by the forest department permitting their removal to widen the road.

“These Trees are Heritage Trees’, as they were planted during colonial times from Kingsway Camp to the Coronation Pillar. The Coronation Pillar area was the site where the Delhi Durbar of 1877 took place, and in 1903 the same area was used for Coronation of King George V. Even though there is no policy to identify Heritage Trees’ in Delhi, the need to preserve such Trees cannot be ignored,” the petition said.

“The said felling Order is not a speaking Order in so far as it contains no details as to why the Trees are being felled and whether there was any exploration of possibilities to save them, compliance with the aforesaid Orders of this Hon’ble Court etc,” it stated.

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