A Division Bench of Justices MS Jawalkar and MS Sonak of the Bombay High Court gave several directions for the proper working of Tree Authorities in Goa.
The directions were issued by the Bench during the hearing of a petition filed by the NGO Living Heritage Foundation.
The petitioners brought it to Bench’s notice that the Tree Authorities, constituted under the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984 of the two districts of North and South Goa have been inoperative since the date of the enactment of the Trees Act (1984), or in any case, from November 2012, the date when the two Tree Authorities were constituted.
Advocate General D. Pangam also conceded that the operation of Tree Authorities in Goa was not up to the mark.
The Bench, extremely distressed by the information given, stated, “This is not just some instance of dereliction of statutory duties but this is an instance that points to the scant regard which such authorities and their members have to the cause of the preservation of trees in the State of Goa.”
The Court added, “Though Article 51A(g) provides that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures, the two Tree Authorities in the State of Goa and its members who are the citizens of India have acted as if no such provisions exist in the Constitution of India or that the provisions of Trees Act and duties which Section 7 has cast upon them, either do not exist or were not meant to be acted upon.”
Some of the directions issued by the Bench are briefly stated below:
- The Tree Authorities have been directed to meet at least once every three months.
- The Tree Authorities have been directed to conduct a census of existing trees and obtain a declaration from all owners about no. of trees in their lands.
- The Tree Authorities have been directed to specify standards with regard to no. and kind of trees which each locality, type of land should have.
- State Government has been directed to constitute the “Tree Protection Fund” as mandated by Section 35-A of the Trees Act within six months.