Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Monday claimed its Tree Authority (TA) is legal and is formed within the framework of relevant laws. The civic body’s defence comes after its TA was declared illegal in April this year. A division bench headed by Justice Shantanu Kemkar was further informed that the TA was doing no illegal act by allowing felling of hundreds of trees in the city for various development projects.
The bench was seized with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by activist Zoru Bhathena seeking stay on the functioning of this TA as it did not conform with the mandatory Tree Act. The TA was accordingly dismantled and declared illegal by a bench led by Justice Abhay Oka in April.
“However, the civic body has allowed its TA to function which is nothing but clearly defying the orders,” Bhathena argued. Bhathena’s plea was on Monday heard by the bench of Justice Kemkar, who however, recused himself from hearing the matter as he is already a member of a committee which is dealing with grievances of citizens over the rampant tree felling for Metro III line. In its affidavit filed through the tree officer, the civic body claimed that its TA is very much legal and comprises of the mandatory 13 members (corporators).
“Every application for felling trees is scrutinised by all the members. The decision to allow felling of trees is finalised only after inviting objections from the citizens,” the affidavit reads. “After hearing all the objections of the citizens, the members grant permission to fell trees. The members apply their mind before allowing them to fell trees,” the affidavit further stated. The matter is likely to be taken up for hearing next week by another bench.