The Kerala High Court directed the Government Pleader to apprise the Court regarding the steps taken for replanting trees/saplings, in terms of the statutory provisions.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice S.Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking the following relief:-
-Issue a writ of mandamus directing the respondent No. 3 (The Assistant Conservator of Forest , Social Forestry Division) and respondent No. 4 (The Assistant Executive Engineer, Public Work Department) not to cut the trees, growing on the side of thaKaraparambu-Kunduparamba road In Kozhikode District for the Construction of footpath.
-Issue a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to ensure and monitor the planting and nurturing of an equal number of trees which have been destroyed for the various developmental activities immediately.
The petitioner (All Kerala River Protection Council) contended that the 3rd respondent had been issuing permission for felling trees on the side of the roads, for widening the roads and for the connected activities.
Referring to Section 4 of the Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005 and the answer furnished by the State Public Information Officer, Office of the Assistant Forest Conservator, Social Forest Division, Kozhikode dated 30.03.2021 Mrs., Daisy A.Philiphose, counsel for the petitioner submitted that though trees were permitted to cut by the authority, respondents are bound to replace the same by replanting ten times of the trees cut in the same place or any other suitable place. Which, according to her, has not been done.
Section 4 of the Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005 is extracted hereunder:
“ As per section 4 of the Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005,
Not-withstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the Local Self Government Institutions shall promote tree growth in non-forest areas and be responsible for,–
(a) The cultivation of saplings in the lands owned or transferred or vested in them;
(b) Carrying out census of the existing trees;
(c) Development and maintenance of nurseries, supply of seeds, saplings and trees at reasonable prices to persons, who are required to plant new trees or to replace trees which have been felled;
(d) Getting the trees planted or transplanted which are necessitated by the construction of buildings, new roads or widening of existing roads or for safeguarding danger to life and property;
(e) Organizing demonstrations and extension services for the purposes of this Act and assisting private and public institutions in connection with the planting and preservation of trees;
(f) Undertaking or executing such schemes or measures, as may be directed, from time to time, by the Government for achieving the objects of this Act.”
Answer No.2 obtained as per the Right to Information Act by the State Public Information Officer addressed to the General Secretary of the Kerala River Protection Council, Kozhikode is extracted below:
“Answer 2: Respected Departments are directed to plants and conserve 10 times the trees cut down in the same place or any other suitable place. The information regarding such planted trees are not avaiblae in this office. “
Therefore the High Court directed the Government Pleader, appearing for the 3rd respondent is directed to get instructions on the above averments and the steps taken for replanting trees/saplings, in terms of the statutory provisions and the answer stated supra.
The Court has posted the matter on 20.03.2023.