Contractor says slum-dwellers cut Vasant Kunj trees

The lawyer of a PWD contractor told the National Green Tribunal Bench on Monday that slum dwellers are to be blamed for the unlawful felling of dozens of trees in Vasant Kunj.

Written by Kamala Kelkar | New Delhi | Published:July 2, 2013 1:45 am

The lawyer of a PWD contractor told the National Green Tribunal Bench on Monday that slum dwellers are to be blamed for the unlawful felling of dozens of trees in Vasant Kunj.

The contractor had got PWD’s road-widening project that was obstructed by the trees. Both the contractor and PWD had earlier denied cutting any trees. The contractor’s lawyer on Monday asked for more time to file evidence while defending his client’s claim that a government report incriminated the slum dwellers in the case.

“There’s a joint report (from) the Forest Department and the PWD that says that the slum dwellers had cut the trees. A signed report,” the lawyer told the bench. Speaking on behalf of his client,he said,“That’s the best evidence that I have.”

A top official at the Forest Department later said that he was not immediately aware of any such report. Kamal Singh,a PWD executive engineer also incharge of the project denied any knowledge of such a report.

Justice Swatanter Kumar who has been presiding over the case since it was filed in March did not address the claim,ordering that the issue be taken up on July 11,the date he had already set for next hearing.

Last month,Justice Kumar had said it was clear that the contractor and two PWD engineers,including Kamal Singh,were trying their best to keep back facts from the NGT.

“It is unfortunate that such senior officers choose to lie before the Tribunal and infact make every possible attempt to mislead the Tribunal just for a small gain and try to cover up BY making misleading statements,” Kumar said.

After the hearing,the contractor’s lawyer said he intended to file the appropriate paperwork ordered by Kumar by the July 11 hearing.

The Forest Department had issued a report stating that 48 trees in Vasant Kunj were illegally uprooted. On May 28,a court-ordered report from an on-site inspection with the Forest Department,the PWD and the applicant Sonya Ghosh,a resident of Vasant Kunj,upped the number to 90. Ghosh,however,believes the number of trees felled are in the hundreds.

Another report from a third party on the number of trees is expected to be presented on July 11.

Meanwhile,construction is at a standstill with only about 30 per cent of the project finished.

A group of neighbors asked the National Green Tribunal to become a party in the case last month because they want the PWD to tie up the loose ends that they say has left their neighbourhood in shambles. They are also expected to be present at the July 11 hearing.

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