Remove wall round 300-year-old Banyan Tree, HC tells Authorities

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On Thursday, the High Court of Delhi expressed its displeasure with the Delhi Govt over the failure of its tree officer to remove wall around a banyan tree, believed to be 300 years old, which was damaged due to illegal construction at Nai Sadak in Old Delhi, while asking the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to look after several such old trees in the vicinity & preserve them.

On Aug 6, the news agency had reported that Justice Najmi Waziri, while hearing a plea regarding illegal construction in the Chandni Chowk area, had directed the authorities to work on a war footing to restore the “grand old tree”, which he said is nothing less than a “heritage”. The plea was filed through advocate RK Kapoor by a resident, Nitin Gupta.

The Judge had said the photographs shown to him reflect the “horrific” condition of the “grand old tree, which has seen the unfolding of the city, & that it existed from a time when the Britishers could not have even thought of coming to our country”. The judge was astonished at the condition of the tree, whose aerial roots were chopped & also damaged by cement & stones.

On Thursday, the Court was informed by advocate Gautam Narayan, additional standing counsel of the Delhi Govt, that the stones & rods had been removed.

However, the Court said the wall surrounding the roots of the tree was still there. He sought to know the reason from the counsel & expressed displeasure that the orders had not been followed.

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It noted that even though some stones had been removed, the tree officer didn’t observe 2 glaring obstructions — a wall around three sides of the tree & another structure.

The Court in its oral order, said that “I am appalled with the non-compliance of my order on the removal of concrete…….The tree officer should have taken note of it as it prevents the growth of the roots. There is another structure around the tree, which needs to be removed. Let an affidavit be filed as to why this was not addressed by the tree officer”.

Senior Lawyer Salman Khurshid, appearing for the builder, told the Court that they had accepted the mistake & were ready to comply with any orders passed by the Court & the authorities.

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Lawyer Ajay Arora, standing counsel for the North DMC, told the Court that construction had completely stopped & the builder was issued a show-cause notice, asking why his sanction not be revoked as they had not mentioned the presence of the tree while seeking permission for the building plan.

Arora said the commissioner had directed an enquiry against erring officers.

In compliance with the earlier order, Arora told the Court that a tree census had been conducted in the area & altogether there were 1,700 trees.

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The Court, noting these submissions, asked the civic body’s lawyer to look into after the banyan trees near Subhash Marg, Urdu Bazaar & other adjoining places & preserve them. 

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