Delhi HC irked by damage to trees in CR Park
The court was hearing a contempt petition over the damage caused to trees on Bipin Chandra Pal Marg and nearby areas due to the digging work by BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) for laying cables.
Expressing its displeasure with the damage inflicted on trees in the Chittaranjan Park area, due to digging work carried out by a power distribution company, the Delhi high court on Friday observed that citizens should not have to suffer because of the agencies’ “callous disregard” of rules and regulations to protect the environment.
“Systems will have to be put in place. Citizens of Delhi should not suffer because of such callous disregard of rules and regulations and orders to protect the environment. There is no intimation to the public as to when the work started and when it has to be finished. Surely the general public cannot be at the mercy of the department,” justice Najmi Waziri said.
The court was hearing a contempt petition over the damage caused to trees on Bipin Chandra Pal Marg and nearby areas due to the digging work by BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) for laying cables. The plea claimed that the roots of standing trees have been damaged, especially within a 1m radius of the trunk, which is a violation of the earlier directions of the high court as well as the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Both courts had mandated that a space of one metre be maintained between trees and any construction activity being undertaken by private/government agencies.
Senior advocate Sudhir Nandrajog, appearing for the BSES, told the court that a stretch of “mere 70 metres” was dug up for laying underground electricity cables and the BSES had ensured that the trees were not damaged or victimised.
However, justice Waziri said he was distressed to see the state of affairs as the authorities and agencies appear to be callous. He then proceeded to issue a string of contempt notices -- to BRPL, executive engineer of the public works department (PWD), engineer-in-chief of PWD (GNCTD), SHO and investigating officer of the CR Park police station, and the tree officer.
“This court has in various orders directed the government departments and agencies to strictly adhere to the directions of the NGT. Somehow, the disposition of some authorities and agencies appears to be callous. While such non-compliance may entail criminal proceedings under the Contempt of Courts Act, it does, in the interim, harm and victimise trees leading to eventual damage of the environment,” Waziri said in an oral order.
The court noted that on January 17, the PWD had cautioned the BSES to maintain a one-metre distance from the trees while carrying out excavation work. “Three days later, the PWD inspected the site and found damage to trees and intimated the BSES vide letter dated 20.01.2022,” the court said.
It added that yet, no remedy was put in place at the site and the abandonment of trees is evident from photographs.
Waziri said there was dereliction of duty by the PWD, which should have stopped the work immediately and also by the tree officer, who should have initiated action upon information.
During the proceedings, the court also took note of pavements, which had been realigned and shortened. The judge said this meant that a wheelchair-bound person would find it difficult to manoeuvre on the footpath.
“The engineer and chief of the PWD shall answer as to how and in what circumstances the width of the footpath was reduced and the new so called channel or well for water harvesting was created on road,” Waziri said, adding that his orders (on Friday) be placed before the chief secretary for him to “set in motion remedial measures within a week”. The matter will next be heard on March 14.