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High Court refuses to vacate stay imposed on BMC's Tree Authority

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused the BMC's plea to vacate a stay imposed on the working of Mumbai civic body's Tree Authority that has the power to approve cutting of trees for development projects or repair and upgradation work.

A vacation bench of justices A S Gadkari and N J Jamadar, however, refused to restrain the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from cutting trees in Aarey area for the proposed Metro car shed and some allied works.

The bench was hearing applications filed by the Mumbai Metro Corporation Limited, the BMC, and environmental activist Zoru Bhatena, seeking various reliefs related to the Tree Authority.

On October 24, 2018, a regular bench of the high court restrained the Tree Authority from taking any decision on the application to cut trees until it had independent experts as nominated members.

Till then, the municipal commissioner would tackle emergent situations, the court said.

The order followed Bhatena's plea pointing that the Tree Authority for Mumbai comprised municipal councillors and no independent expert.

On Wednesday, the BMC submitted that it had chosen four independent experts to be part of the Tree Authority.

It, therefore, requested the court to permit the Tree Authority to start functioning. The civic body said it had several pending projects pertaining to felling of trees ahead of the monsoon, but they were being delayed due to the stay imposed by the court in October last year.

Bhatena opposed the BMC's arguments, saying the present Tree Authority had 15 councillors or corporators and just four expert members.

He argued that the BMC must include an equal number of experts as councillors to ensure permissions for felling trees were not granted indiscriminately. The high court is likely to hear the matter in detail on May.

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