A division bench of the Bombay High Court, of justices AS Oka and PN Deshmukh, on January 24, 2018, ordered that the Thane Municipal Corporation’s Tree Authority can process applications but cannot pass any order or take decisions of uprooting, transplanting or felling trees. “We cannot allow this to be done, till we are satisfied that the Authority has been constituted in accordance with law,” the bench said.
The court said, however, in case of emergencies, which involve the safety of people or property, the Thane municipal commissioner can take a decision to cut a tree. “We want to save the trees. There appears to be gross non-application of mind, before constituting this Authority. We hope the Thane civic body takes this matter seriously,” justice Oka said.
The court passed the order, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Thane resident Rohan Joshi. The petition has highlighted how the councillors and others appointed to the Tree Authority, are not educated adequately in subjects related to trees. The petition claimed that only three members of the committee are graduates in science/ botany/ agriculture fields, while others have lower educational qualification and mostly have political patronage.
The PIL also argued that in order to achieve the objectives of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, it is incumbent that the tree authority be reconstituted. The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on February 21, 2018.