Supreme Court issues criminal contempt notice to DDA Vice-Chairman over tree felling in southern ridge area : The Tribune India

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Supreme Court issues criminal contempt notice to DDA Vice-Chairman over tree felling in southern ridge area

DDA allegedly allowed large-scale felling of trees in southern Ridge's Satbari area to construct approach road from Chhattarpur to SAARC University

Supreme Court issues criminal contempt notice to DDA Vice-Chairman over tree felling in southern ridge area

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, May 16

Taking exception to a ‘misleading’ affidavit filed by Delhi Development Authority Vice-Chairman Subhasish Panda over felling of trees in the National Capital’s ridge area, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued a criminal contempt of court notice to him.

The DDA allegedly allowed large-scale felling of trees in the southern Ridge's Satbari area to construct an approach road from Chhattarpur to SAARC University. On Thursday, the top court ordered the DDA to stop all further activities for construction of the road.

A Bench led by Justice Abhay S Oka pulled up the DDA Vice Chairman for presenting wrong facts before the top court as Panda stated that 642 trees were cut without his knowledge.

"I have been a judge in Constitutional courts for over 20 years now and I have never seen a body misrepresenting facts and filing wrong affidavits. There has to be some limit… never before seen," Justice Oka remarked, adding, "We cannot trust the DDA now".

The Bench was shocked to know that felling of trees continued for 10 days and it was suppressed by the DDA despite knowing that not a single tree could be touched in the ridge area without the court's permission in terms of a 1995 order.

The Delhi Lt. Governor – who is DDA chairman -- was also misled by DDA officials who did not give him correct facts about felling of trees, it said. “The DDA Vice Chairman has chosen to withhold the approval documents in court. We direct that they be produced...We hope Lieutenant Governor takes the issue very seriously in his capacity as DDA Chairperson and in official responsibility,” it said.

"Such conduct and suppression amounts to interference with the due course of court proceedings and administration of justice. We have already issued show cause notice for civil contempt. We therefore issue notice of criminal contempt," it said.

The Bench directed the DDA to plant 100 new trees for each tree felled. It also directed the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun to visit the road stretches to find out how many trees were felled in order to assess the damage and submit a preliminary report.

"This might only be the tip of the iceberg in terms of environment," Justice Oka said, posting the matter for hearing on June 20 during the summer vacation.

The Supreme Court had on May 9 ordered the authorities in the national capital to stop felling of trees in the ridge near Delhi University and maintain status quo there.

It had issued notice on a contempt of court plea alleging that authorities allowed felling of a large number of trees in the ridge area in violation of the top court’s orders.

It had also sought personal presence of the DDA Vice Chairman, the Director General, Central Public Works Department, the Director General of Forest and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest of Delhi on May 14.

Panda had on Tuesday accepted that not only the trees on the land vesting in the DDA were felled, but even the trees on the forest area were felled. Following this, the top court had asked  Panda to file his personal affidavit on the restoration measures which he proposed to take. “Prima facie, this conduct may amount to criminal contempt,” the Bench had noted on May 14.

On March 4, the top court had refused permission to DDA to fell 1,051 trees, terming its application as “very vague” and directed it to re-examine the proposal by employing experts.

 

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