‘Violations’ of Norms at Kejriwal’s Residence: NGT Imposes Costs for Non-submission of Reports

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a cost of Rs 15,000 on the Delhi forest department for the non-submission of a proper report by a panel formed earlier to find the factual position regarding the alleged violations of green norms at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.

The NGT also directed the Delhi government and its public works department (PWD) to pay a cost of Rs 10,000 each for not submitting their reports according to the tribunal’s earlier directions.

The NGT was hearing a petition that alleged the raising of permanent and semi-permanent constructions and the felling of more than 20 trees for developing structures at 6, Flag Staff Road (the chief minister’s residence) and 45-47, Rajpur Road (properties adjoining it).

In May last year, the tribunal formed a joint committee for ascertaining the factual position. The committee comprised the chief secretary and principal secretary (environment and forest) of Delhi, a nominee of the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) and the district magistrate of North Delhi.

A bench of NGT Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava said despite repeated directions passed in July and October 2023, the committee failed to submit its report and the tribunal, in November last year, granted it four weeks, failing which the chief secretary was directed to appear before the green panel.

In an order passed on Monday, the bench, also comprising judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel, said, “No report by the joint committee is on record even today nor has the chief secretary appeared by virtual mode.”

Taking note of the submissions of the deputy conservator of forests (Central Delhi), who appeared before the tribunal on behalf of the forest department, the bench said a report was filed on Monday in contravention of the tribunal’s circular that reports and other such documents had to be filed before 12 noon on the last working day before the date of hearing.

“A hard copy of the report has been produced during the course of arguments, wherein as many as 53 annexures are mentioned but none of the annexures from A to BA has been enclosed. Such an incomplete report has no meaning,” it said.

The deputy conservator of forests then submitted that the enclosures would be submitted later in the day, to which the tribunal said it is accepting the report, subject to the deposit of Rs 15,000 as cost.

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It said the PWD of the Delhi government sought two weeks in October 2023 to place on record the relevant documents relating to several issues, including the permission and compulsory plantation.

But no response was filed by the PWD, the NGT pointed out, adding that even the city government did not file any reply as directed by the tribunal in October last year.

“Hence, a further two weeks is granted to the PWD and the National Capital Territory (NCT) to do the needful, subject to a deposit of the cost of Rs 10,000 by each with the registrar general of the tribunal,” it said.

The matter has been posted on March 4 for further proceedings.

The petition has been filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal on behalf of an environmental activist.

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