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Justice Navin Chawla recused himself in a PIL seeking protection of 198 trees where as many as 1615 trees are already missing.

Advocate Sanjoy Ghose, appearing for the Public Works Department, told the court that the trees were being cut after taking proper permission, according to the Delhi High Court’s 2015 order. He said the 198 trees, for which permission was being sought, was part of the 302 trees as pointed by the amicus curiae and the court in that order.

Court was informed, by petitioner, of rampant deforestation in Vasant Kunj area for the purpose of widening of Mehrauli-Mahipalpur Road.

Bindu Kapurea v GNCT of Delhi submits, “extension of roads…ought not be carried out and executed at the cost of the environment, by deforestation of trees that have been in existence for the past several decades. The Respondents have been acting arbitrarily and illegally in removing the trees without any proper authorization or permissions in complete violation of the order of this Hon’ble Court, Statutes and guidelines. The compensating afforestation is only a report on papers.”

Filed by Advocate Manoj George, the petition alleges “rampant deforestation and miniscule and name sake afforestation by the Respondents deny this right to the Petitioner and other citizens of this locality,” highlighting Supreme Court’s observation of right to life extending to the ‘right of enjoyment of pollution- free water and air for full enjoyment of life.’

The petitioners on a prior date had pointed out to the Appellate Authority that the approved plan identifies 226 trees that were needed to be cut instead of 810. Unsatisfied by the outcome, a writ petition was filed where compensatory afforestation was recommended by the amicus.

A survey by the Eco Collective Group of the residents revealed that 1615 trees were missing. On deeper research, they found another 198 trees allocated for felling. The contempt petition for operating against court orders was also filed and is supposed to be heard on 13the January 2020.

The petition seeks protection of the said 198 trees, stating that Vasant Kunj “falls under the protected ridge area and is a vital groundwater recharging zone in the state of Delhi. It had luxuriant and healthy growth of trees, including birds, insects, bugs so important for the biodiversity in the area which gave an ambient atmosphere to South Delhi and ensured ground water recharge on an annual basis, and clean air to the large populous of the city.”

The petition also points out ‘utter confusion in identifying the trees,’ created by the Respondents to cover up their illegal acts. It mentions ‘an unholy nexus’ between the government and the contractors, who are unjustly enriched.

The matter would be now listed on Tuesday, 24th September before another bench.

— India Legal Bureau

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