400 Trees Axed In Ridge, Supreme Court Starts Contempt Case Against DDA Official

The bench termed the DDA’s actions “interference in the administration of justice”.

New Delhi:

Days after the Supreme Court asked Delhi and three other states not to give any new mining permissions in the Aravallis without its nod, the court has come down hard on the Delhi Development Authority for tree cutting in the Ridge, which is an extension of the range, and initiated contempt proceedings against its vice chairman.

On Wednesday, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) admitted to the court that 458 trees had been axed on forest land in the southern part of the ridge in South Delhi to widen a road. Hearing the issue on Thursday, the bench of Justices AS Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan termed the DDA’s actions not just “willful violation of the orders of this court and disobedience to the law” but also “interference in the administration of justice” since the court had already turned down its application for cutting the trees.

The 11-km road connects Chhatarpur with South Asian University, both of which are in South Delhi. Pulling up DDA Vice Chairman Subhasish Panda, the bench said the Authority knew that the trees could not be cut without the permission of the court and had hid the fact that the felling had started in February this year.

“Our view is that in place of one tree cut by DDA, 100 new trees will have to be planted,” the judges said and ordered the DDA vice chairman to disclose the names of all responsible officers so that action can be taken against them. 

The chairman of the DDA is the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and the court asked him to ensure that all further activities related to the road are stopped in the Ridge area.

“DDA chairman will deploy a team to find out whether the road work has stopped or not,” the bench said.

The court directed the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, to visit the stretches of road to ascertain how many trees had been cut and to assess the damage in the “grossly illegal and contemptible act”. It also said action should be taken by the Ministry of Environment And Forests.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had asked Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat to not give any new mining permissions in the Aravallis until further directions.

Striking a balance between protecting the environment and the livelihood of people engaged in mining activities, the court had stressed that its order would not, in any way, be construed as a stay on mining already being carried out in the range with valid permits and licences.

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