Having equal no of experts, councillors on tree authority not a must: BMC tells HC
Senior counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for the BMC, argued that the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation Of Trees Act of 1975 does not mandate the tree authority to fulfil this condition of equalityUpdated: Jun 18, 2019 00:24 IST
The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday said it will continue the embargo on the functioning of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC’s) tree authority for a further 15 days, if the petitioners in the case wanted to oppose the civic body’s argument that it was not necessary to have an equal number of councillors and independent tree experts on its panel.
Senior counsel Anil Sakhare, appearing for the BMC, argued that the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation Of Trees Act of 1975 does not mandate the tree authority to fulfil this condition of equality.
According to Sakhare, this condition was imposed by a previous HC bench that based its observations on how other municipal corporations in the state had constituted their tree authorities.
“A previous bench of justice AS Oka had ordered that the number of corporators and experts should be equal,” said Sakhare adding that the order was pertaining to petitions regarding tree authority constituted by municipal corporations in Nashik and Thane.
Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Zoru Bhathena, the HC had in October 2018 held that the nomination of independent experts on tree authorities is mandatory and restrained BMC’s tree authority from functioning, without having an adequate number of independent experts nominated.
On May 21, the HC refused the BMC’s tree authority to resume functioning until it had the equal number of elected councillors and independent tree experts. Bhathena had argued that while the Trees Act empowered the commissioner of a municipal corporation to decide on the number of members on the panel, the rules also stipulated there should be a minimum of five experts on it.
Bhathena had pointed out that BMC’s current tree authority had only four experts and according to four previous HC orders, did not fulfil the criteria of having equal number of elected councillors and independent experts.
Sakhare, on Monday, pointed out that the Trees Act did not make this criteria mandatory and had to be interpreted differently in BMC’s case.
The division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice N M Jamdar, hearing this notice of motion in the PIL, accepted Sakhare’s submissions and asked if the petitioner wanted to challenge this interpretation of the Act by filing a separate petition.
After Bhathena sought time to do so, the HC posted the next hearing on the matter on Tuesday.
First Published: Jun 18, 2019 00:21 IST