Ridge tree-felling: SC says 'won't hesitate' to add Delhi LG as party to contempt proceedings

New Delhi, Jun 24 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Monday said that it "will not hesitate" to add Delhi Lt Governor V.K. Saxena as a party to the pending contempt proceedings initiated against Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials for felling of trees in the national capital's Ridge area in violation of the apex court's order.

After perusal of records and several emails, a vacation bench headed by Justice Abhay S Oka categorically asked senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the DDA, if the LG, who functions as DDA Chairman ex-officio, had visited the site and directed the felling of trees.

The Bench, also comprising Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, orally asked Singh to speak personally to LG Saxena and obtain instructions if he had visited the site in February this year and passed the orders for the felling of trees.

The apex court remarked that the LG, being the statutory head of the DDA, is amenable to judicial review and it is interested in finding the truth since the inquiry report was silent on the LG’s purported visit.

Further, the SC remarked that it was “shocking” on the part of the DDA to permit the contractor to cut down the trees without obtaining the apex court’s permission.

Posting the matter for hearing on Wednesday for passing certain interim directions, the apex court remarked: "When it comes to cutting trees, it must be slow."

In the previous hearing, the top court had asked the DDA Vice Chairperson why he should not be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court for wilful breach of its orders prohibiting the felling of trees.

"We are not prepared to believe that the contractor entrusted with the work of widening the road has indulged in cutting trees of his own volition. Obviously, it has to be on the basis of the instructions from the officers of the DDA," it had said.

Further, the Supreme Court had said that the DDA Vice Chairperson misled the LG by forwarding a proposal to set up a committee of experts to minimise the trees felled.

"We hope and trust that the Hon’ble Lt Governor will take this issue very seriously, not only in his capacity as the Lt Governor of Delhi but also in his capacity as the Chairman of the DDA," it had added.

The apex court was of the view that apart from the statutory requirement of compulsory afforestation, 100 new trees per every tree felled must be planted by the DDA.

It was dealing with contempt pleas alleging that a large number of trees in the ridge had been felled there by the DDA to construct an approach road between the Chhattarpur Road and the SAARC University near Maidan Garhi.

In an earlier order, the SC had said that other areas having morphological ridges were required to be protected and no permission for construction should be given there.



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Title: Ridge tree-felling: SC says 'won't hesitate' to add Delhi LG as party to contempt proceedings

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