HC orders tree lovers, PMC meeting to settle issues

PMC, petitioners to attend joint meeting at conference hall of court building in Mumbai today, discuss tree census, tree-felling and enforcement of Tree Act in city

In a rare development, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been directed by the Bombay High Court to attend a joint meeting before a final verdict is reached regarding trees in the city.

Just like this: Environmentalists are fighting for trees to be numbered
like this one outside the Bombay High Court. The numbering helps in
tracking the trees if they are replanted elsewhere. File Pic

Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud and A A Sayyad verbally issued the directive last week and the meeting is scheduled for today or during the week at the conference hall of the court building in Mumbai.

The court has invited 15 people from the civic body, petitioners with the government and defense pleaders for the meeting.

Seeking a solution
This directive was issued in the backdrop of the ongoing tussle between PMC and city-based environmentalists since the past three years over several issues related to the conservation of green cover in the city. Noted tree lovers Vinod Jain, Juneja Singh, Vaibhav Gandhi and Shrinivas Lele had filed a writ petition in the HC on May 6, 2009, urging for illegal tree cutting in the city to be halted. They had also requested the court to allow PMC to give permission for tree cutting. As per the plea, the court has asked that PMC grant permissions only after getting requisite permission from the court.

The petitioners alleged that over 80,000 trees were illegally hacked in the city in the five years prior to 2009, thereby causing a reduction in the city's green cover. Systematic tree census and numbering on the trees were also some the demands placed before the court.

Jain, one of the petitioners, said, "Justice Chandrachud and Sayyad had issued a verbal order during the last hearing on Thursday. The reason PIL was filed was to halt illegal tree cutting and to demand a proper tree census. There were a total 81 hearings at the Bombay HC in the past three years. The court also tackled other important issues, including sale of cut trees by taking permission from the forest department, proper enforcement of the Tree Act and making tree cutting rules," he said.

He said that by numbering trees, it would be helpful to identify them if they were replanted elsewhere.

Jain further said to make the tree issue much clearer, a power point presentation followed
by discussions has been planned in the conference room of the HC.

"We are sure that the court will do this exercise as per the officially declared schedule.

The conference may get postponed due to technical reasons, but it will definitely take place this week," Jain said.

"We are expecting the issue to be discussed in the conference rood at the Bombay HC at 3 pm today. But there is also a possibility that the issue may be discussed in the court room," said PMC lawyer, S B Mahashabde.

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