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  • Writer's pictureThe Times of India

Delhi High Court: We must learn to live with nature, can't just cut a tree for car parking

Vasant vihar depicting AnantLaw legal case on tree pruning

This news report was authored by Abhinav Garg and featured in The Times of India on 3 November 2023. The article talks about a case represented by AnantLaw team.

Delhi High Court on Thursday took exception to tree officers of the forest department allowing felling of trees in residential colonies on private plots.

"We must learn to live with nature. A tree can't be cut just to make way for a car parking or increase the premium of a property," Justice Jasmeet Singh observed, while hearing a contempt plea against a tree officer who allegedly ignored tree felling in two properties in Vasant Vihar.

"You are within your rights and power to refuse permission in certain cases," the court reminded the authorities and directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's (MCD) building department to file an affidavit indicating how many sanctioned plans released by it took into account the presence of trees in the boundary of the plots in question.

The court was perturbed to note that the tree officer in his latest order of October 31 had compounded the felling of 17 trees on two plots in Vasant Vihar by slapping a fine of Rs 10.4 lakh on the errant owners. The counsel for the tree officer tried to highlight that he had also directed MCD to promptly plant 190 trees to replace the fallen ones and clarified that these must be of native species and placed within Vasant Vihar.

But the court wondered why the trees adjoining the plots were allowed to be cut. "If you don't know why nine big trees were cut, then shut down your office. Can nine miscreants come and cut trees on private property? How can you be so casual? I will say yours is a defunct organisation if that's the case. Such a non-sensitive, casual approach is not acceptable," the court told the government's counsel.

The court then directed the tree officer to take fresh action and convey his stand on the next date of hearing. It pointed out that "every tree in these A category colonies will affect or reduce marketability of these buildings that are coming up, it will give more car parking space to the builder, but we have to learn to live with nature".

It was hearing a contempt plea filed by Sanjeev Bagai alleging violation of the court's prior orders that felling of trees in residential areas should not be allowed mechanically by tree officers. Through advocate Anu Monga, the plea argued that if such felling was compounded, builders would be encouraged to flout norms.

On Bagai's plea, the court had last year said that under Delhi Preservation of Trees Act 1994, the essential part of the preservation was that a tree should not be damaged in a manner that would impede its growth or otherwise severely affect its regrowth and regeneration.

Client: Prof. Dr. Sanjeev Bagai, Padam Shree
Prof. Dr. Sanjeev Bagai & Ors. v. Department of Environment, Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors.

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