February 9, 2021 12:30:30 am
Four persons were arrested by Gamdevi police for allegedly posing as BMC employees and hacking down multiple trees in south Mumbai. Investigators learnt the trees, which are at least twenty years old, were cut as they were blocking the visibility of the banners placed there.
Police said the four accused– Sameer Qureshi (31), Shafiq Darjee (27), Hiralal Darshan (42) and Mohamed Parvez (27)– are contract labourers who were allegedly paid Rs 15,000 to chop the tree’s under someone’s instruction, police said.
The trees were cut on February 3, after locals complained on Twitter, and the state’s Environment and Tourism and Minister Aditya Thackeray also visited the spots.
BMC’s D ward officials acted accordingly and submitted complaints at the police station. Police said at around 7pm on February 3, the four accused initially visited Jindal House in Malabar Hill, where they chopped a Gulmohar tree. Later that night, they hacked three trees near Mahalaxmi Mandir, while branches of another tree were trimmed at Tambe Chowk, also known as Bandstand near Girgaon Chowpatty.
Officials said the four claimed they had received instructions from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and were also wearing BMC’s night reflector jackets. “They were cutting the branches with the help of a cutter, rope and an axe,” said Milind Narode, a junior tree officer from BMC’s D ward in his statement to Gamdevi police.
“Based on the complaint lodged, three FIRs were registered– two at Gamdevi and one at Malabar Hill police station,” said an officer.
The FIRs are registered under IPC sections 170 (personating a public servant), 171 (wearing garb or carrying token used by public servant with fraudulent intent) and relevant sections of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975.
Police then started scrutinising the CCTV footage from the spots and managed to identify the suspects with the help of human intelligence. The accused were nabbed from their residence in Mahim area.
“Our investigation is underway and we are trying to identify the people who deputed them to chop the trees. Apparently, the instructors had even told them they had permission from the BMC,” said senior police inspector Rampiyare Rajbhar of Gamdevi police station. Senior police inspector Suryakant Bangar of Malabar Hill police station said, “We will take the custody of the four as a case is registered at our police station as well.”
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