Don't cut roadside trees for obstructing commercial activities: Kerala HC to Govt

Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court here directed the state government to confirm that trees on the roadside are felled only for posing threat to public safety. The court pointed out that no one should be allowed to cut trees on roadside merely because they obstruct commercial activities. A decision regarding that should be taken by a committee constituted in accordance with a 2010 government order regulating the felling and disposal of trees growing on government lands, Justice P V Kunhikrishnan said.

"Without such a decision, no trees on the roadside of the State shall be cut and removed by any authorities. The Chief Secretary of the State shall issue necessary orders to that effect. "...the State of Kerala should see that no request to cut and remove trees on the roadsides of the State can be permitted without sufficient reasons. Trees give cool shades, pure oxygen and shelter to birds and animals," the court said in its order of May 22.

The court's ruling came while dismissing a plea challenging the Forest Department's decision to reject an application to fell trees blocking the view to a commercial property built adjacent to the Palakkad-Ponnani road. The petitioners had approached the Public Works Department (PWD) for felling the trees by claiming that they posed a danger to their building as well as the public.

The PWD officials were convinced by the petitioners' claim and had forwarded their application to the Forest Department. However, after inspecting the area, the Assistant Conservator of Forests in Palakkad gave a report stating that the trees were not a danger to anyone, gave shelter to many birds and the local public was opposed to cutting them. The court termed it "surprising" that merely because some branches were hanging dangerously, the PWD recommended cutting and removing the trees itself. It said that the state government should consider the matter seriously and take action against the officers concerned if there was any dereliction of duty from their side when they approved the petitioners' request to cut and remove the trees.

"Even if the branches of the trees are dangerously leaning, at the maximum, the recommendation can only be to cut and remove those branches. The duty of PWD is to protect the trees standing on the roadside and not to destroy them. "To protect a building or to protect a commercial activity of a citizen, the trees cannot be cut and removed," the court observed.

(With PTI inputs)

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