Supreme Court Issues Reprimand Over Tree Felling in Delhi Ridge, Cites Potential Contempt by DDA

In a significant environmental ruling, the Supreme Court of India on Monday issued a stern warning to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) regarding the unauthorized cutting of trees in Delhi’s ridge area. The apex court’s vacation bench, consisting of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, demanded a clear explanation from the vice chairman of the DDA, questioning the potential involvement of the lieutenant governor in the decision, which was seemingly taken without the court’s prior approval.

The court criticized the apparent disregard for legal and environmental safeguards, highlighting the irreversible environmental impact of such actions. “Such brazen acts in the capital city cannot be lightly brushed aside by this court,” the bench stated, emphasizing the judiciary’s role in safeguarding the environment against unchecked governmental actions.

The justices have called for a thorough investigation into the actions of the DDA, which led to significant ecological damage, stressing the need for accountability at high levels of governance. The court also issued a contempt notice to four senior officials of the DDA, signaling the gravity of the situation.

Further complicating matters, the court pointed out discrepancies in the accounts presented by DDA officials regarding a site visit by the lieutenant governor on February 3. Emails suggested that the tree felling was carried out under direct instructions from the lieutenant governor, prompting the court to seek a detailed factual statement from the vice chairman of the DDA.

In response to the environmental destruction, the Supreme Court has proposed a massive tree plantation drive across the National Capital Territory of Delhi, demonstrating a proactive stance on environmental restoration. The court has enlisted the support of the Attorney General, R Venkataramani, in this initiative, emphasizing the collective responsibility toward environmental conservation.

The ongoing case, which has already seen the issuance of a notice of criminal contempt against DDA vice-chairman Subhasish Panda for allowing large-scale tree felling previously, underscores the judiciary’s increasing frustration with governmental agencies circumventing environmental laws. The misleading affidavit previously filed by the vice chairman, which misrepresented facts to the court, has only added to the court’s concerns.

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As the case is set to be heard again on June 26, the Supreme Court’s actions reflect a clear message to all governmental authorities: environmental protection is not to be taken lightly, and legal repercussions are imminent for those who fail to uphold statutory and constitutional duties.

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