‘Consider expeditiously’: SC to HC on a plea against over 2,000 trees’ felling in Dehradun

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Uttarakhand High Court to expeditiously consider a plea against the felling of 2,057 trees of different species for the road widening in a dense green stretch of Dehradun Valley for facilitating the traffic movement to and fro from Mussoorie.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sudhanshu Dhulia said: “It would be appropriate if the bench hearing PIL matters in the high court takes up the matter on an expeditious basis so that the submissions which the petitioner has can be duly considered by the high court.”

In its order, it said: “We permit the petitioner and the State to mention the proceedings tomorrow, 2 August 2022, before the High Court so that the appropriate Bench of the High Court considering PIL petitions can list the proceedings expeditiously, preferably within a period of a week. All questions are kept open to be urged before the high court.”

The top court granted liberty to petitioner Ashish Kumar Garg, who was represented by senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, to raise all appropriate issues before the high court in the pending proceedings, including on the feasibility of transplantation and the need for felling of trees.

“Since the writ petition is pending before the high court, the issues which have been raised before the high court are left open for being addressed before the high court,” it said.

The apex court noted that a division bench of the high court by its order dated 22 June 2022, modified an earlier interim direction dated May 11, 2022, which restrained felling of trees for the purpose of a proposed road widening in Dehradun.

“The high court, acting on the premise that it is well-known that eucalyptus trees have adverse effect on soil conservation and soil texture, and on the water table, modified the interim order so as to permit the felling of eucalyptus trees. The high court observed that while the widening of the road would continue, out of 2,057 trees that were proposed to be felled, 1,006 eucalyptus trees were allowed to be felled by the authorities,” it said in its order.

The high court had directed that the first report would be submitted in the second week of December 2022 and listed the proceedings after six months awaiting the report of the concerned authorities.

Garg moved the top court, through advocate Srishti Agnihotri, challenging high court passed on June 22, accepting the proposal for road widening submitted by the Uttarakhand government through the Executive Engineer, PWD, Rishikesh with certain modifications and consequently allowed felling of trees, without considering his suggestions which would sustain the ecology and save the trees from unnecessary felling.

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