Bombay High Court seeks BMC’s stand on No. of green experts in tree authority

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court Wednesday sought to know from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) if it was averse to appointing equal number of councillors/corporators and environmental experts to its tree authority.

A vacation bench of Justices Sandeep Shinde and Sarang Kotwal was hearing applications filed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited, BMC and environmental activist Zoru Bhatena seeking various relief related to the tree authority. The high court in October last year restrained the tree authority from taking any decision on applications to cut trees until it had independent experts as nominated members.

Last week, the BMC informed the court that the present tree authority has four experts. Bhatena took objection to this and said the tree authority had 15 councillors or corporators and just four experts. BMC’s lawyer Rajesh Patil on Wednesday told the court that the tree authority was established after following due process of law.

The high court, however, sought to know why the number of corporators and experts could not be on par. “In principle, are you (BMC) opposed to the idea of having equal number of councillors or corporators and experts in the tree authority?” the bench asked. “Is it the BMC’s stand that as per law the number need not be equal or is it because the corporation is not getting any experts?” it further questioned.

The court also asked what was the minimum number of experts to be appointed to the tree authority. “Is there any prescribed number? The advice given by experts will not be of any use if their number is minimum in the tree authority,” the court. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on June 3. Bhatena’s lawyer Sonal argued that the BMC must include an equal number of experts as councillors to ensure permission for felling trees was not granted indiscriminately.

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