Expert opinion taken before felling trees: State govt, civic bodies tell HC

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Bombay High Court,Mumbai,Maharashtra,pay stamp duty,stamp duty,Govt-appointed toll,Govt-appointedThe Bombay High Court was informed by the Maharashtra government and other authorities that civic chiefs were advised by experts while processing applications for felling of trees.

The authorities, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Thane Municipal Corporation, were responding to query posed by a division bench of justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla on Monday.

The bench had asked them if the commissioners took the opinion of experts before passing orders to fell trees.

As per a recent amendment to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, any proposal to cut less than 25 trees could be placed before the civic body commissioner concerned.

Proposals to fell more than 25 trees would be sent to the Tree Authority.

The court was hearing a petition filed by activist Zoru Bhathena challenging the validity of an amendment to the act that conferred special powers upon the municipal commissioner to decide proposals seeking permission to remove, fell or transplant up to 25 trees.

The petition had sought a stay on the amendment.

“The commissioners have in-house experts from the field, including those from the civic body’s garden department, to help them while processing such applications,” BMC counsel Anil Sakhare told the court.

Government counsel S U Kamdar told the court that the amendment provided for a procedure which was to be followed by the commissioner.

“It is not that the commissioner gets an application and decides it on his own. The application is forwarded to the garden department first which prepares a report after carrying out an inspection,” he said.

The report is then placed before the civic chief for consideration and decision, he added.

Sakhare told the court that once a decision was taken on an application, the same would be uploaded on the BMC website for a period of seven days in case any person wanted to challenge it.

The court, however, opined that granting a blanket stay on the amendment would not be practically viable as then all applications seeking permission to fell trees would have to be heard and decided by the courts.

The petition had complained that tree cutting proposals were being split as the Tree Authority was only looked into proposals that concern more than 25 trees.

According to the petition, in January itself 49 proposals for cutting 806 trees were submitted to the BMC commissioner.