Bombay HC reprieve for Raymond chairman and MD Gautam Singhania in ‘tree-felling case’
Mumbai city news: The Raymond CMD approached the high court after the magistrate court issued process [notice] to proceed against him and others for illegally cutting the treesmumbai Updated: Jul 05, 2017 00:31 IST
In a major reprieve for Gautam Hari Singhania, the Bombay high court recently struck down criminal proceedings initiated by Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) against the Raymond Group chairman and managing director for illegally felling 586 trees within his company premises at Thane.
In September 2011, the tree Officer of the TMC issued a notice to Gautam Singhania and a manager of Raymond Limited at Thane after noticing that of the 4,610 trees within the company’s premises, 586 were cut without obtaining prior permission of the tree authority for carrying out development work.
The tree officer lodged a complaint with the magistrate court at Thane against Singhania and a local manager of Raymond.
The Raymond CMD approached the high court after the magistrate court issued process [notice] to proceed against him and others for illegally cutting the trees, and the sessions court rejected his appeal in July 2014.
Before high court, Singhania’s lawyer, advocate Subodh Desai, argued the company has its own horticulture department and some small, wild weed plants which were uprooted during monsoon were removed. He said the CMD of the company could not be held personally liable for such act.
Advocate Desai argued there was absolutely no material placed before the magistrate for issuing a process against the Raymond CMD, as the company itself had not been named in the complaint, and the order of issuing the process was mechanically passed.
Justice AK Menon accepted his contentions after noticing the magistrate had passed a one-line handwritten, cryptic order of issuing summons to Singhania and the others, and therefore struck it down on grounds of lack of application of mind.
Justice Menon has, however, allowed the Tree Officer to proceed against other accused persons in the case. “This is not to suggest that the felling of trees should be ignored or trivialized if in fact so many trees have been felled,” said the judge, adding, “It is indeed a serious matter to be taken to its logical conclusion and in accordance with law. There is a need to ensure the Tree Authority is mandated to follow fool-proof checks and balances before proceeding to file complaints.”