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 The Supreme Court hinted on Tuesday, May 14, in the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India & Ors, that it might bring criminal contempt charges against the Vice Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for the extensive tree-cutting that is occurring in Delhi’s Ridge Forest area, which is against its previous rulings.

 “Subhasish Panda, DDA Vice Chairman appears before the court and accepts that not only the trees on the land vesting in the DDA were felled but even trees on the area of forest felled. We direct the VC to file his personal affidavit on remedial measures which he proposes to take. Prima facie, this would amount to criminal contempt however, we’ll pass appropriate order in this regard on the next date.”, the court said.

Although Subhasish Panda, the Vice Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, was present in person, the bench of Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan severely reprimanded him for his incapacity to address the court’s specific questions concerning the felling of trees in Delhi’s Ridge Forest Area. The Delhi Development Authorities (DDA) illegally felled trees in the Ridge, the last forest area in the National Capital of Delhi, according to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed. The road would have been built as an approach, spanning 10.525 km from the main Chattarpur Road to SAARC University, CAPFIMS, and other establishments in the Maidangarhi, Sayurpur, and Satbari areas of Delhi.

 The court had previously served the government officials with a contempt notice and mandated that they personally show up for the next hearing. 

The court yesterday questioned DDA Vice Chairman Panda right away about who gave the go-ahead to cut down the trees.

 “Firstly, tell us the name of the officers who authorized the cutting down of trees?”, asked Oka J. 

Panda replied that the tree-cutting exercise was overseen by junior-level staff, but he was unable to reveal the identities of the participating officers.

Panda answered the court’s inquiry about whose orders it was carried out to cut down the trees by saying that the contractor completed the entire exercise of doing so.

 The court questioned Panda about any permissions she may have had to cut down the trees, considering that she was only hired to build the road. Panda’s lack of clarity on the matter was made clear, and the court observed that the act of felling the trees was a “sad state of affairs.”

According to the court, the contractor completed the tree-cutting project in its entirety without getting approval from the DDA. 

Court ordered the DDA Vice Chairman to provide an affidavit ensuring the restoration of the entire area where the trees were felt. 

After Panda acknowledged that trees in the forest as well as those covered by the DDA had been felled, the court asked Panda to provide an affidavit detailing the steps he would take to restore the situation to how it was before the tree-cutting. 

Panda was ordered by the court to furnish an approximation of the quantity of trees that were felled, along with the identities of the DDA officers who authorized the felling of said trees. Panda was also asked to provide a list of the names of the officials who authorized the contractor to remove the trees. Thursday, May 16, 2024 is the next listing for the case. 

Case Details: Bindu Kapurea v. Subhasish Panda & Connected Matters D

Name: Gurleen kaur , bba llb ( 6th sem ) , st. soldier law college, intern under legal vidhiya.

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