Kerala High Court Rules Against Felling Roadside Trees for Commercial Gain

The Kerala High Court has issued a directive to the state government, emphasizing that roadside trees should not be cut down merely to facilitate commercial activities. The ruling asserts that trees along the roads can only be removed if they are in a damaged state that poses a threat to public safety.

This decision came on May 22, as Justice P V Kunhikrishnan stressed that any decision to fell trees should be made by a committee established under a 2010 government order, which oversees the felling and disposal of trees on government property. “Without such a decision, no trees on the roadside of the State shall be cut and removed by any authorities,” the judge stated.

The issue was brought to the court’s attention through a petition challenging the Forest Department’s rejection of a request to cut down trees that obscured the view of a commercial property along the Palakkad-Ponnani road. The petitioners argued that the trees posed a risk to their building and public safety, a claim initially supported by the Public Works Department (PWD). However, following an assessment, the Assistant Conservator of Forests in Palakkad reported that the trees were safe, provided habitat for birds, and enjoyed public support for their preservation.

The court found it concerning that the PWD had moved to approve the tree felling based on the supposed danger of overhanging branches. “Even if the branches of the trees are dangerously leaning, at the maximum, the recommendation can only be to cut and remove those branches,” the court noted, adding that the primary duty of the PWD should be to safeguard, not destroy, the roadside trees.

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Justice Kunhikrishnan’s ruling highlights the importance of trees for providing shade, oxygen, and shelter for wildlife, and stresses that the state’s priority should be to protect these natural resources rather than yielding to commercial pressures.

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