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SC notice to Delhi Police over alleged harassment in tree felling case

The petitioners, including Bindu Kapurea and a Delhi-based NGO, New Delhi Nature Society, approached the top court regarding the alleged illegal cutting of trees by the Delhi Development Authority.

SC notice to Delhi Police over alleged harassment in tree felling case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the Delhi Police for allegedly harassing a petitioner who had moved the top court to initiate contempt proceedings against the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for illegally felling trees in Delhi’s Southern Ridge Forest in Chhatarpur area.

A bench comprising Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Augustine George Masih issued a notice after senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan told the bench that they had filed an application highlighting the harassment of the petitioner by Delhi Police personnel, who inquired about his identity and details of his bank accounts.

Senior advocate Sankaranarayanan told the bench that the Delhi Police has been making inquiries regarding the petitioners and alleged that the police have reached out to their bank, demanding detailed information about the accounts.

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The bench said, “We will look into this.”

The petitioners, including Bindu Kapurea and a Delhi-based NGO, New Delhi Nature Society, approached the top court regarding the alleged illegal cutting of trees by the Delhi Development Authority. They alleged that despite a March 4, 2024, top court order denying permission to the DDA, the trees were cut, and this fact was allegedly suppressed from the court.

In May, the top court initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against DDA Vice-Chairman Subhasish Panda for the felling of trees in violation of its orders issued in February this year. During the hearings in June 2024, the court noted that Lt Governor V K Saxena, in his capacity as Chairman of the DDA, had approved the proposal for cutting trees and had also visited the site in question.

Thereafter, the top court asked the DDA Vice-Chairman if there was any record of Lt Governor Saxena’s visit to the site. During the hearing on June 24, the bench was told that Ashok Kumar Gupta, a member of the engineering wing of the DDA, was present when the Lt Governor visited the site where trees were cut, despite the March 4 top court order denying permission.

Expressing misgivings about an attempt to protect higher-ups while making officers below a scapegoat, the court stated in the last hearing on June 24, “Unless we take a strong view, the message will not go.”

In the last hearing on June 24, the DDA was initially evasive in replying to a question from the bench about whether Lt Governor Saxena had visited the site. The court observed, “We are not happy with this approach. You are not able to give a record. Simple information is not being given. We asked if the information (about the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the site) is available”.

The next hearing is on July 12, 2024.

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