HC pulls up Authorities for Insensitive Approach towards Tree Preservation

The Delhi High Court expressed concern on Friday over the pollution level in the national capital and pulled up authorities for their “insensitive” approach towards preservation of trees.

Annoyed over the alleged violation of the court’s earlier directions on not carrying out any civil work within a two-metre radius of any existing tree without prior permission, the high court said trenching activity has been carried out with brutality.

“The people of Delhi are in a miserable state. Look at the pollution. None stops you but you have to be considerate…. They (trees) were planted pursuant to the orders of the high court. Look at the brutality. It is absolutely insensitive,” Justice Jasmeet Singh said.

The court was hearing a matter in which it issued a notice last week to a Military Engineer Services (MES) official to explain why contempt action should not be initiated against him for violating its earlier directions on not carrying out any civil work within a two-metre radius of any existing tree without prior permission.

During Friday’s hearing, the counsel representing the MES tendered an apology and submitted that they were not aware of the court’s earlier directions and assured the court that trenching will not take place in the green belt and that the alignment will be changed after seeking due permission from the authority concerned.

As the excavation work was carried out in the green belt on the station road in Delhi Cantonment, the court also questioned the Delhi Cantonment Board’s counsel for not stopping the work.

“People are digging left, right and centre and you are not bothered. They are damaging all the trees. The land belongs to you and anyone comes and digs and you will not stop them or supervise? You should have informed them about the order,” the judge said.

As the board’s counsel submitted that the work was stopped, the court shot back, saying “the work stopped after all the damage. What is the point”?

The judge made it clear that the court’s order has to be complied with or else, the authorities will be hauled up for contempt.

The counsel for the MES also undertook before the court that they will plant 100 trees and look after those.

The court then discharged the notice issued to the MES official.

On January 29, the high court had directed that all agencies in the national capital will need the tree officers’ permission to undertake civil work within a two-metre radius of any existing tree.

The court had ordered that the condition shall be incorporated into the work contracts and tenders issued by government agencies and there will be a strict penalty in case of non-compliance.

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Advocate Aditya N Prasad, who was appointed as a court commissioner in the matter that concerns plantation of trees from the Green Fund, had said the trees damaged due to the civil work carried out by the MES without prior permission were planted pursuant to the orders passed by the high court.

In the application, he said around 180 trees were planted along the station road in Delhi Cantonment last year and it was recently noticed that trenching activity had damaged certain trees in the area.

Meanwhile, in another matter, the high court directed the Delhi government’s forest department to implement the draft Delhi Preservation of Trees Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), 2023 till the final SOP laying guidelines to decide cases of offences against trees in accordance with the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act (DPTA), 1994 is notified.

The court passed the order, saying since July 2023, the Delhi government has been considering the SOP and only indicating that it is in the process of implementing it, but more than eight months have elapsed and there has been no development.

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