For the time being, a timely intervention by a Senior Advocate has prevented the felling of a 60-year-old Peepal tree in Inderpuri, Delhi [N. Hariharan v MCD and Ors.].
The Delhi High Court, acting on a written petition and urgent mentioning filed by Senior Advocate N Hariharan, ordered the Delhi Police, North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), and Deputy Conservator of Forest to ensure that the tree is not cut or destroyed in any way until the issue is heard again.
“The NDMC, Delhi Police, and the Office of the Deputy Conservator of Forest are ordered to ensure that the aforementioned tree outside House No.A-7, Inderpuri, New Delhi, is not removed or destroyed in any way until the next date,” Justice Rekha Palli’s ruling noted.
The Court also served notice on the three respondents and set a new hearing date on November 11, 2021. Hariharan had got a phone call about 3.30 p.m., during his court appearances, informing him that the Peepal tree close to his Inderpuri home was being uprooted by Corporation/Forest Department personnel and would be chopped to size in the next few hours.
He quickly wrote a one-page handwritten letter-petition and approached the Chief Justice Court, but the Chief Justice Court, as well as the Court of the following Division Bench, had already risen for the day. Justice Sidharth Mridul and Justice Anup Bhambhani who are the third most senior Division Bench, who were busy with a hybrid hearing, were then contacted. The plea was cited at 4.30 p.m. after the Bench had finished hearing cases, and the Bench directed the Registrar to list the petition immediately, subject to the Chief Justice’s orders. Within 45 minutes, the plea was numbered and scheduled in front of Justice Rekha Palli’s bench. By that time, the Forest Department’s and NDMC’s lawyers had been summoned to the hearing. In-person, Hariharan told the Court that the tree was being cut down illegally and that he needed immediate interim relief.
The NDMC, represented by Counsel Abhinav S Aggarwal, claimed that, on his orders, the Office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests issued an order allowing the tree to be relocated. He did add, though, that he was unable to provide any details about the order. On behalf of the Delhi Police and the Office of the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Advocate Gautam Narayan stated that he was not in a position to inform the Court of any such order. After hearing the parties, the Court concluded that allowing the tree to be cut down without first evaluating the petitioner’s claim that the action is not supported by any valid order would create grave and irreparable harm to the environment and the residents of the area. As a result, the NDMC, Delhi Police, and the Deputy Conservator of Forests have been ordered to ensure that the tree is not cut down or destroyed in any way till the next hearing date.