Delhi HC warns of contempt notice over damage to 300-yr-old Banyan tree
The court was hearing a plea filed by one Nitin Gupta, filed through advocate RK Kapoor, seeking restoration of the tree that had been damaged due to construction. Kushmakar Rastogi, a resident, had also filed an application to save the banyan tree.Updated: Nov 21, 2020, 04:11 IST
The Delhi High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Delhi government’s tree officer and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation for their failure to remove concrete around a 300-year-old Banyan tree that has been damaged due to illegal construction in Old Delhi’s Nai Sadak area.
The court asked why a notice of contempt should be not issued against officers for “wilful disobedience” of the court’s order.
Justice Najmi Waziri said it appears the officer has not visited the site and so is not aware of the ground reality. He said photos shown to the court pointed to the presence of a concrete structure and iron girders at the basement of the tree.
The court was hearing a plea filed by one Nitin Gupta, filed through advocate RK Kapoor, seeking restoration of the tree that had been damaged due to construction. Kushmakar Rastogi, a resident, had also filed an application to save the banyan tree.
On Friday, Rastogi’s counsel showed pictures showing iron girders and other construction causing damage to the tree base. He said the authorities, including the Delhi government’s tree officer and the North Delhi civic body, had done no work to restore the tree.
The pictures irked the court, which said the tree officer had “given up” and MCD officials had done “no work” at the site . He said his earlier direction of setting up a tree helpline was also not implemented.
The court said due to the “wilful disobedience of its repeated instructions, it is inclined to conduct contempt proceedings against all authorities”. He asked the authorities to file an affidavit with details of the situation.
The court asked the deputy commissioner of the North MCD to file an affidavit, saying the “grand old tree” is like “a patient who has to be nourished”.
It appears the tree officer has not visited the site. The photos show status quo with the iron girders still present and the tree suffering as earlier. “Nothing has been done so far as the ground is dug up,” the court said.
The court asked advocate Gautam Narayan, additional standing counsel of the Delhi government, to ask the principal secretary, forest, to look into the matter while threatening to seek a report from the chief secretary.
“Let’s do something for the city. We are gasping for fresh air,” the court said and posted the matter till November 27.
North Delhi mayor Jai Prakash said the court’s directions should have been complied with. He said everything would be done to address the issue.
The forest department did not comment on the matter.