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Civic laws on tree felling not for cantt, says NGT

 PUNE: The National Green Tribunal here has ruled that municipal laws like the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, are not applicable to felling of trees in the military cantonment areas.

"The cantonment area is excluded from applicability of municipal laws," the tribunal bench of Justice V R Kingaonkar and Ajay A Deshpande ruled on January 12 while disposing of a plea by Jamshed Kersi Dalal, a resident of Synagogue street, against the Defence Estate Officer's (DEO) move to cut trees near the Military Intelligence Training School for two proposed foot over bridges on the Hadapsar-Kondhwa road.

"The trees may be felled/cut or pruned from the defence estate. They are required to be planted as per the Cantonment Act," the bench ruled while relying on an April 1, 2005 circular by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which stated that the planting, maintenance, disposal, cutting of trees on A-1 defence land, shall be done by the DEO concerned.

Lawyer Krishna D Ratnaparkhi, who appeared for the MoD, told TOI, "The foot over bridges are proposed for enabling easy access from the school's main complex to the officers' mess, which is separated by the road. Ever since its establishment as a training unit for intelligence officers from India and friendly foreign countries, the road that separates the military intelligence school from the mess, has a very heavy traffic. A number of trees within the compound of the complex were proposed to be cut and a notice of tender for contract of cutting trees was published by the defence authorities."

Dalal moved an application before the tribunal by claiming the cutting of trees was illegal and alleging that no due procedure has been followed by the defence authorities. Ratnaparkhi said, "We contested Dalal's claim by bringing to the tribunal's notice that the cutting of trees was proposed on an A-1 defence land, which is governed by the Cantonment Land Administration Rules 1937. These rules enable the station commander to approve cutting of trees on recommendation of a board of officers."

"The management and administration of an A-1 defence land falls within the domain of the DEO, who has followed all due procedures for cutting of trees. Moreover, the civil law is not applicable in the instant case," he said.

Ratnaparkhi had submitted before the tribunal that Dalal's application was without any merit and deserved to be dismissed with costs. The tribunal, however, preferred disposing of the plea by ruling, "We direct that the respondents, DEO and Pune Cantonment Board, shall follow the directions stipulated in the above referred communication (MoD circular of 2005), as regards to the activity of felling of trees is concerned."