In a first, minor taken in custody in Mumbai for destroying mangroves
Senior officials term it a matter of concern as juveniles were being used for mangrove destruction nowUpdated: Apr 07, 2018 13:10 IST
A 15-year-old boy was taken in custody on Friday by the Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit (MMCU), which functions under the state mangrove cell, for cutting a mangrove tree in Mahim earlier this week.
According to mangrove cell officials, this is the first time a minor has been taken in custody for mangrove destruction. In accordance with rules on how to deal with ‘children in conflict with the law’ for those below 18 years, the boy will be produced at the Juvenile Justice Court in Dongri on Saturday.
“Based on a complaint filed with us on Monday itself, our officers were investigating the Mahim slum area in close proximity to the mangroves. After four days of investigation, we found the minor, who confessed and said that he was directed to hack the mangrove tree located in the reserved mangrove forest patch in Mahim by Shyam Babulal Savithe, 45, a resident of slums along the creek, who is currently absconding,” said Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest, MMCU. “We have tracked Savithe, and will be arresting him over the weekend.”
Senior officials of the cell said this was a matter of concern as juveniles were being used for mangrove destruction now. “We have never seen such a case so far, and it shows that people are using uninformed juveniles to destroy mangroves. While it might be a stray case, the juvenile will be tried by the court as it is still a serious offence. The individual who convinced him to do this deserves more punishment, and we will ensure that happens. It is the need of the hour for us to ensure that such cases are not repeated as these juveniles are unaware about the law,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
Environmentalists said such cases could introduce juveniles to crime without knowing what they are getting into. “It is the lacuna of the law that is being exploited by unscrupulous elements. This poses a serious challenge for law enforcement agencies also, and it is up to the courts now to show a way out of such cases,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.
Destruction of mangrove forests across the state and construction within 50m of mangrove areas was banned by the Bombay high court in 2005, after a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Bombay Environment Action Group. Such violations are an offence under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and have been afforded protection under category I of the CRZ (Coastal Zone Regulation 1991). They are also entitled protection under the prevailing forest conservation regime, the Maharashtra Private Forest Act 1975, the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the Maharashtra Felling of Trees (Regulation) Act 1964.
The penalty under these acts ranges from a minimum of three months in judicial custody with a fine of Rs1,000 to a maximum of three years and fine of Rs10,000. However, there have not been any convictions for mangrove destruction cases in Maharashtra so far.