The Bombay High Court Tuesday asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to reconsider the “blanket permission granted” to government and private agencies to trim trees across the city.
The court was hearing a petition filed by activist Zoru Bhathena seeking orders to restrain the Tree department of the Corporation and their staff and contractors from cutting and damaging any tree without obtaining prior permission from the Tree Authority of Mumbai or the Municipal Commissioner of the Corporation as per provisions of law. The petition says that last month, the petitioner observed that the Tree Authority and their officers have gone on a tree-hacking spree throughout Mumbai.
A division bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice R I Chagla asked the Corporation counsel whether permission was given by the Tree Authority. “You cannot grant such blanket permission,” the court said. Anil Sakhre, BMC counsel, told the court that trimming trees is important for preservation and protection of trees and it falls within the duties of the Tree Authority. Trimming of trees, is an act of maintenance of trees by pruning irregular or unwanted branches.
The court asked who decides which branches need to be cut and who supervises these activities. The court said, “What if, in the name of trimming, they cut 90 out of 100 branches and virtually kill the tree?” The court also said that “don’t grant such blanket permission…somebody has to apply his mind,” before giving such permissions. “The Municipal Commissioner has to be satisfied that the tree needs to be cut and then call upon the owner in respect to the particular land,” the court said.
On the permission granted to government and private agencies like Railway, MSEB, Reliance Energy, TATA powers, and Airport Authority to trim tree branches, Sakhre told court that Section 383 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act gives the Corporation powers to allow trimming and pruning of trees for their maintenance. The court said this permission has to be reconsidered by the Corporation.