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Civic chief can’t approve tree cutting proposals: Bombay HC

The division bench was hearing a public interest litigation that challenged a recent amendment to the Maharashtra Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.

mumbai Updated: Feb 22, 2018 00:44 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari
Kanchan Chaudhari
Hindustan Times
mumbai,Bombay,high court
The amendment empowers municipal commissioners to allow proposals seeking to cut, remove, and transplant up to 25 trees.(Representational photo)

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday restrained the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief Ajoy Mehta from allowing the cutting or removal of trees, in the exceptional case that the tree poses a threat to human life or property.

The division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice PN Deshmukh was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), filed by city activist Zoru Bhathena.

The PIL challenged the validity of a recent amendment to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975. The amendment empowers municipal commissioners to allow proposals seeking to cut, remove, and transplant up to 25 trees, without sending the proposal to the tree authority of the concerned civic body.

On the last date of hearing Bhathena complained that after the amendment was brought into effect, tree-cutting proposals pertaining to a single project were being split into multiple proposals that limited the number of trees to be cut to 25 trees each. This was done so that the municipal commissioner could clear these projects without consultation from the tree-authority.

Bhathena has also challenged the validity of a number of orders passed by the BMC chief to allow the cutting of a large number of trees along the roads in Mumbai.

His counsel, advocate Snehal, pointed out that in January, 49 such proposals for cutting 806 trees had been submitted to the commissioner.

The first two proposals - one for cutting 20 trees and the other for 9 trees - were part of a single, slum rehabilitation project and had been split for easier approval, she said.

Proposals seeking permission to remove trees for the Metro project were also being split in a similar manner.

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 00:41 IST