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'Are you defending LG?' Supreme Court slams authorities on Delhi tree cutting
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

'Are you defending LG?' Supreme Court slams authorities on Delhi tree cutting

| @indiablooms | 24 Jun 2024, 09:02 pm

New Delhi: Coming down heavily on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for the trees cutting in the capital's Ridge area, the Supreme Court Monday said it cannot brush aside "brazen acts" that lead to the destruction of the environment.

"If authorities are not performing their statutory and constitutional duties, the court has to give a loud signal to all authorities that the environment cannot be damaged in such fashion," a bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan said.

Hearing a suo motu contempt case against the DDA vice-president, the apex court also proposed a large-scale tree plantation drive in the national capital.

This comes days after the city reeled under an unrelenting heatwave that claimed many lives.

The court asked the DDA how a Tree Protection Act could be implemented and said it would instruct civic authorities to conduct a tree plantation campaign.

The vacation bench Monday fielded tough questions to the DDA on how trees in the Delhi Ridge area were felled despite a Supreme Court order against cutting trees in the area.

"It is very shocking if the trees were cut despite knowing that it cannot be done without the permission of the Supreme Court," Justice Oka said.

He then asked if Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena had asked DDA officials to remove the trees. Saxena is the chairman of the DDA.

"We are dealing with a very serious issue? 1100 trees, you taking it very casually? Ask your officer who issued these directions... is it the chairman? Then we are making him a party," the court asked.

The court noted that the trees were cut after the Lt Governor's visit and asked the DDA counsel if they were "defending actions by the LG". "Two documents placed on record which says LG directed to cut trees, how can you run away from this? Are you defending LG?" Justice Oka asked.

Mahesh Jethmalani, who appeared for DDA vice-chairman Subhasish Panda, asked if the Lt Governor was informed about the Supreme Court order protecting the trees. To this, Justice Oka said, "In a lighter vein, I have read that famous Sherlock Holmes story - the secret why the dog did not bark."

The judge was referring to the short story, The Adventure of Silver Blaze, in which a horse is stolen but a dog that sees it does not react as it is an inside job.

"We are trying to find out the truth and we expect better assistance from the DDA. We are pained to know what kind of valuable trees have been felled," the court said.

The court has now asked the DDA vice-chairman if there is an official record of what transpired during the Lt Governor's visit. "We need a clear statement of facts from the VC, because if what is indicated in the emails is correct, then the felling of the trees was on the directions by the LG. We expect the DDA to come clean on this aspect," the court said.

"From the affidavit of the DDA vice-chairman, it appears that the entire blame has been shifted on the officers stating that they were responsible for directing the contractors to cut the trees without the permission of the Court," the court noted, issuing contempt notices to these officers.

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