A new lawyer for the Public Works Department (PWD) argued for an hour at the National Green Tribunal on Monday that there was no proof that the agency had illegally uprooted trees in Vasant Kunj for its road-widening project.
The advocate Avnish Ahlawat usually takes up High Court cases but was specifically called for the NGT case because Justice Swatanter Kumar has railed against the PWD for its poor representation.
A resident of Vasant Kunj in March had accused the PWD of uprooting hundreds of trees without permission for a 3-km road-widening project and the agency has consistently failed to produce any evidence in its defence.
No stumps have been found in the entire area, Ahlawat told the bench,while she presented about 100 pages of documents,explanations and photographs. It is only presumption.
She was disputing three reports from different government agencies presented to the NGT throughout the case,assessing how many trees have gone missing. The first report from the Forest department stated that 48 trees had been felled,but a report from the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education last week estimated that 267 trees had been removed.
Ahlawat discredited the most recent report from the ICFRE,an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment and Forests,claiming that the number was a calculation and not an official count.
The documents included a photocopy of the results of a survey that the PWD said it conducted in April,stating that only four trees had been felled,and that they were likely casualties of a storm. Justice Kumar questioned its authenticity.
Ahlawat also said it was written in the contract with the construction agency that,trees are not to be touched. However,she did not produce a copy of the contract.
Throughout the hearing,Justice Kumar had reminded the PWD that the agency was responding to a contempt order from the NGT. The Tribunal also instructed PWD to go to the site and state in its own words how many trees have been felled and also warned the agency.
When you make documents,you have to be careful, he said.
Justice Kumar adjourned the hearing to July 23 because the counsel for the Forest department was not present. The contractor also filed a response,stating that the company was innocent. Those arguments will be heard next week.