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Supreme Court issues criminal contempt notice to DDA VC over tree felling in southern ridge

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan expressed displeasure over the misleading affidavit filed by the vice chairman and presenting wrong facts in the court. It also directed planting of 100 new trees for each tree felled by the DDA.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 13:53 IST
Last Updated : 16 May 2024, 13:53 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a suo moto notice for criminal contempt to the Delhi Development Authority vice-chairman for felling of trees in Delhi's Ridge Forest area in violation of its previous orders, finding it as "grossly illegal and contemptuous act". 

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan said, “Felling of trees without seeking permission of this court is a wilful breach of orders passed by this court." 

The court also took exception to suppression of material which amounted to interference and obstruction of the administration of justice.

“We had already issued a show cause notice for civil contempt on the contempt petition. We issue suo moto notice of criminal contempt to the vice-chairman of DDA," the bench said. 

Attorney General R Venkataramani, at this juncture, requested the court to defer, for the time being, the issuing of a notice of criminal contempt to the vice chairman.

Rejecting his plea, the bench said, "After noting what has happened, if we do not issue notice, then we will be failing in our duty."

The bench directed the vice-chairman to disclose the names of all officers responsible for violating the orders on tree felling, as they have also prima facie committed criminal contempt. 

The court said the work was entrusted to the contractor without seeking the permission.

“We must note here that trees, which were cut are in the ridge area, which is also a forest area,” the bench said.

The bench stressed that inquiries have to be made regarding officers, who entrusted the job of cutting trees to the contractor and the DDA should come clean and stressed that a clause should have been inserted in the contract that felling of trees is only permitted after the apex court allows it.

The bench directed the DDA to stop all further activities in connection with roads in the ridge area.

"Now, we have to appoint an independent agency to assess how many trees were felled and also to assess the extent of damage done to the environment by this grossly illegal act and contemptuous act,” the bench said.

The court directed the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, to depute its team to visit the roads to find out how many trees were cut and to assess the damage to the environment. 

Ishwar Singh, a retired IFS officer, and Sunil Limaye, who is a member of the Central Empowered Committee, shall be associated with the work assigned to FSI, the bench said. 

The court also directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest to take action in accordance with the law and also asked the LG, being the chairman of DDA, to examine the issue seriously.

The court ordered compulsory afforestation of planting 100 trees for every tree cut and stopping the road construction work immediately. 

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Published 16 May 2024, 13:53 IST

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