Bombay HC allows PIL against illegal felling of trees in light of the “Tree Act”

Bombay High Court: In an highly structured and ornate decision concerning the deficiencies of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 placed in the form of a PIL, the Division Bench comprising of A.S. Oka and Riyaz.I.Chagla, JJ., have remarkably given the explanation on the objects of enacting the Trees Act, which clearly is a leading path towards the growth of trees rather than the destruction in urban areas.

The focal point of addressing the present PIL was the challenge placed by the petitioners on the validity of the amendment to the Trees Act. The talked about PIL in this case constitutes two petitions and the authorities involved in them are “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai” and “Municipal Corporation of City of Thane”. The challenge in both the petitions is to the sub-section (6) added in Section 8 of the Trees Act and there is a challenge to the constitutional validity of the said provision on the ground of violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The first and foremost submission posed by the petitioners was that in regard to the constitution of the Tree Authority and the kind of mindless decision making process they have adopted towards granting the felling of trees. Her contention is that the entire process is vitiated by illegality due to which they cannot be allowed to function. The next submission was made in regard to the primary challenge of the PIL which concerns sub-section (6) of Section 8, in which she states that, the said provision is arbitrary in nature and has no nexus with the purpose or object sought to be achieved and it certainly violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Along with the mentioned contentions, the other concern was that of the violation of a Fundamental Right of citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India due to the manner of exercise of power by the Municipal Commissioner under the above mentioned sub-section.

Further, even in the other writ, petitioner posed a similar issue by challenging his submission to sub-section (6) of Section 8 by stating that intelligible differentia is not present for the classification under the said sub-section which clearly carves the vagueness and ambiguity due to complete absence of guidelines.

Noting all the contentions posed by the petitioners and prioritising the issue by issuing various directions towards the alarming issue of decisions being taken for felling of trees by the authorities acting in an arbitrary manner, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay has taken care of the issues by limiting the powers of the Municipal Commissioner by making the authorities a little more diligent towards the issue of felling of trees and therefore, allowing the citizens to appeal against such decisions. [Rohit Manohar Joshi v. Tree Authority, Thane; PIL No. 119 of 2017, dated 23.04.2018]

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