The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Monday told the Bombay High Court that there was a validly constituted Tree Authority — chaired by the BMC municipal commissioner — and every tree-cutting proposal was in public domain as well as objections were heard before granting permission for felling of trees.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Zoru Bhathena, an activist, that said illegal permission of tree cutting was granted by an illegal Tree Authority, which is a complete breach of High Court orders. Bhathena, in his petition said on September 23, he had learnt about some trees being cut at K/East Ward in Marol, Andheri (East). On making enquiries, he was informed that the Tree Authority had recently sanctioned the proposal of removal of trees in excess of 25.
The petition also said on the next date, Bhathena visited the office of the Tree Authority and inspected their records. “The Petitioner was shocked to learn that the Tree Authority was continuing to function with 13 elected Municipal Corporators and no independent members in blatant violation of the provisions of the Tree Act, Tree Rules and in breach of this Hon’ble Court’s Order (of April 4)…” the petition said.
An affidavit was filed by Jitendra V Pardeshi, Superintendent, Gardens, and tree officers said all the proposals were readily made available to the general public and were in public domain for scrutiny, and inputs, if any, before the approval for felling of such trees was granted by the Tree Authority. “I say that, every precaution is taken by this respondent (corporation) to ensure that the suggestion and/or objection raised by the general public are properly heard and considered while considering any proposal for felling of tree under the Tree act,” the affidavit said. Later, an appropriate decision is taken either granting or rejecting the proposal by the Tree Authority.
The affidavit further said, “I say that all the decision are taken by the Tree Authority in meeting lawfully held in the presence of the proper quorum as contemplated under… Tree act under the chairmanship of the Municipal Commissioner of the MCGM.”
“I say that the contention of the petitioner that the constitution of the Tree Authority is illegal and not on consonance with the provision of the Act and the orders of this Hon’ble court is misconceived and without any basis,” the affidavit said. The affidavit also said there were a number of experts within the corporation that advise and assist the Tree Authority, which had been validly constituted as per the Act.