The Delhi High Court has made a landmark decision in a tree conservation case by sentencing two Public Works Department (PWD) officials to imprisonment for contempt. The officials, an executive engineer and the engineer-in-chief, were found guilty of consistently disregarding court orders and failing to comply with laws pertaining to the conservation of trees in the Chittaranjan Park area.
Justice Najmi Waziri, presiding over the case, noted that the court had previously directed the authorities to exercise caution in preserving the wellbeing of trees during civil work. The National Green Tribunal had also issued similar directives, including the removal of concrete surrounding tree trunks. However, the PWD officials repeatedly ignored these orders, leading the court to impose severe penalties.
The judge emphasized that such recalcitrance and defiance of court orders warranted nothing less than a sentence. Consequently, the executive engineer was sentenced to four months of simple imprisonment, while the engineer-in-chief received a two-month sentence. Additionally, both officials were fined Rs 2,000 each.
The court clarified that the sentences would be held in abeyance for ten weeks to allow the officials an opportunity to pursue legal remedies. However, their guilt for contempt and willful disobedience of court orders in March 2022 was established.
The case originated from a petition filed by the New Delhi Nature Society, represented by lawyer Aditya N Prasad. The petition highlighted the lack of remedial measures and the evident damage to trees caused by civil work undertaken by the authorities. The digging and trenching work for underground pipe/cable laying had resulted in the cutting and damaging of tree roots within a one-meter radius of the trunks.
In its earlier ruling, the court emphasized the importance of preserving the green ambience and protecting trees, emphasizing citizens’ right to a healthy environment. However, the PWD officials had blatantly breached these directives, leading to the contempt charges.
The sentencing of these officials marks a significant step towards ensuring compliance with environmental laws and court orders. It serves as a stern warning to government authorities and officials that disregarding conservation measures will have severe consequences. The case also highlights the judiciary’s commitment to protecting the environment and holding those responsible for its degradation accountable.
As the PWD officials await the outcome of their legal remedies, this decision stands as a testament to the court’s dedication to upholding environmental conservation and setting a precedent for future cases involving the protection of trees and the environment.