Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to “reconsider” the blanket permission granted by it to some private and public agencies to trim trees on their premises.
A bench of Justices A S Oka and R I Chagla asked on what basis had the civic body granted such blanket permissions, without any condition for determining whether these agencies were adhering to provisions of the Trees Act and the BMC’s own rules. The bench was hearing an application filed by city-based activist Zoru Bhatena, challenging BMC’s decision to allow some public and private agencies like Tata Power, Reliance Energy, the Railways, and the Airport Authority of India, to trim trees on their premises for the next three years.
The corporation told the bench that it had been well within its powers in granting such permission since it was not for felling of any trees, but for trimming and pruning, that was essential for the maintenance of trees. BMC’s counsel, advocate Anil Sakhre, argued that under section 383 of the Municipal Act, the corporation had the power to allow trimming and pruning of trees for their maintenance, or in cases where the trees had some overgrown or damaged branches posing a danger to one’s life or property.
The bench, however, said even section 383 mandated that such permission could be granted to private persons or bodies only after the civic commissioner was convinced that the trees on the respective person’s property required trimming. “The Act does not talk of such blanket permission without any application of mind by the civic body. Who is to determine whether the trees that such bodies are trimming actually require to be touched?
“And what if in the name of trimming, they cut 90 of the 100 branches and virtually kill the tree? That will be in contravention of the Trees Act,” the bench said. “This will have to be reconsidered by BMC,” it said. The court also directed the petitioner to amend its plea and make the agencies that have been granted such permission, a party to the plea. The BMC, in the meanwhile, will file a rejoinder justifying the permission granted.