The Delhi High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar on Wednesday (July 4) took a stern view of the cutting of 20,000 trees in Delhi for the purpose of “re-development” and said that this was probably the only city in the world planning is cone retrospectively. The bench also asked why was it that everybody has to live in Lutyen’s Delhi and cannot move to the outskirts?
In its order the court issued notices to the CPWD, NBCC, GNCTD, DDA, DJB and the NDMC.
The bench allowed the petitioner’s (Dr Kaushal Kant Mishra) application contending that the various permissions granted by the tree authority were illegal and seeking the quashing of those permissions.
The bench also commented on another critical aspect which was afforestation and the water required for it. The bench ordered that the Union of India and the Delhi government “shall place a report stating the source of water for the saplings which would have been planted to replace the felled trees. The bench asked all respondents to answer to these issues.
The bench said that given the importance of the issue “a complete petition has to be submitted before amicus MC Mehta and Ahluwalia within two days. The bench said that till further hearing the respondents shall prohibited from cutting down and removing any tree as per the permission which are granted by the tree authority. The Delhi government is already reviewing the permission.”
The court also came down heavily on the NBCC and asked it to reply within 10 days why contempt of court proceedings would not be started against it.
The matter will be hard again on July 26.
The enraged bench said that the “basic question was about amending a master plan retrospectively.”
The issue has been hanging fire for long, with the authorities deciding to fell a large number of trees to re-develop seven colonies. The court was aided by the mention in the PIL of a “CAG report (which) states (that) there was a deficit of 9 lakh trees in Delhi”.
On the last date of hearing (on June 25), the Delhi High Court bench of Justices Rekha Palli and Vinod Goel stayed the cutting of trees by the NBCC and the CPWD in the name of re-development in South Delhi. Ramesh Singh, counsel for the state government has submitted that the Department of Forests is the necessary party to be impleaded in this case and the amended memo of parties shall be filed. Singh said that order of the tree authority cannot be challenged before the NGT.
Today the bench was informed by the petitioner that he had filed an amended petition under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act.
That was when the court asked the DDA “what is the meaning of re-development? Can you tell us when you gave permission to modify the master plan. Did you consider the population density of the area? Can you tell us the population density as per the master plan and how the amount of water required will be supplied and the sewage output, garbage dump from it and how the density should be distributed?
“We want to know how you gave these permissions, where a two-storey building was built up to eight-storey?”
The court wanted to know how the DDA planned to improve the infrastructure, manage the garbage, how roads would be provided for ambulances to reach hospitals? The court wanted to know how many patients die in between the intersection trying to reach two major hospitals, AIIMS and Safdarjung.
The court said: “You are shuttering the needs of poor people who want to reach the hospitals, in the name of development. What about air pollution?
“Why does everybody want accommodation in the centre of Delhi?” the court asked NBCC. “Move the flats to Narela and outer parts. We are the only city in the world where plans are modified retrospectively.”
The court slammed the respondents, saying: “According to them fully grown trees are equivalent to saplings grown by them. You have remove trees from its roots to develop colonies. If I can recall from my childhood Delhi is best known for its tree cover.”
The court said the DDA will have to impleaded as a pasty and asked it to explain how urban plans were modified after developing the colony and infrastructure and how they were making provisions for laying of roads, water pipes and energy supply. The court also wanted an explanation on how a residential area was permitted to be changes to a commercial area.
The court also wanted to know “how much open area and play area are you developing? “How difficult is to travel to South Extension etc, can you imagine access to these colonies? Try Saket district court right next to malls.
– India Legal Bureau