Supreme Court issues notice in PIL to recognise Trees as Living Entities with Rights

Supreme Court issues notice in PIL to recognise Trees as Living Entities with Rights

The Supreme Court today issued notice in a PIL filed asking for directions to curb large-scale felling of trees. Notice has been issued by a Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Suryakant. 

Among the various prayers listed by petitioner Sheela Barse are prayers to declare trees as living entities that are entitled to rights.

The petition, filed through Advocate Prashant Padmanabhan, raises specific objection to various instances of deforestation happening in  states such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Notably, the petitioner highlights that the Uttar Pradesh Government has announced plans to fell 64,000 trees in Lucknow for a Defence Expo.

“The state government wants the area to be completely cleared by January 15, 2020 so that the land can be handed over to the organisers of defence expo”, the petition further notes.

Further, apprehension has also been raised regarding the inadequacy of the “remedy” proposed by the Uttar Pradesh government to compensate for the proposed felling of trees.

UP Govt then explains that the trees cut are 200 year old and the SAPLINGS are being uprooted replanted. Experts credibly say that a pit has to be in readiness for each sapling. How the State Government would actually do this for thousands of trees with how much power is not explained.”

The petitioner goes on to contend that such unmindful felling of trees is devastating to the nature and against intergenerational equity and  the right to life and existence of not just humans but other living beings. As further stated in the petition,

This Hon’ble Court have on innumerable occasions, dealt with the true ambit of Right to life and today it includes Right to life with all its necessary facets, not just animal existence. All living beings, plants, trees, birds, vegetation depending on such eco system have Right to Life and it cannot be curtailed for the selfish human interest. None of these Living Beings are capable of defending their Right to Life and it is this Court which has always stood for the Right to life of every living being on earth. Violence is not just physical violence but also curtailing the gifts of nature to future generations. Cutting of huge number of trees is an inter generational injustice which must be stopped forever.”

The petitioner has raised objection to tendency of Governments to view felling of trees as the solution to avail land for temporary use or for infrastructure purposes. While highlighting the many functions served by trees, including the maintenance of ecological balance, it is contended that allowing widespread deforestation entails gross injustice not only to the present generation but also the future generations.

Inter alia, the petitioner has also pinpointed the Aarey forest controversy to argue that the Government is also aware of the ramifications that follow the felling of trees. As noted in the petition,

Some these actions are taken in the dark of the night as in case of the chopping of thousands of trees in Aarey. The blacked out action seems to suggest that the Authorities were aware that the felling of trees actions associated with are mala fide. “

The other prayers raised by the petitioner, in light of these concerns, include,

  • Direct the Government to abandon the plans of destruction of trees for any purpose and allow the same only if meets the criteria of an Expert committee.
  • Direct the central and state governments to formulate policies prevent deforestation for further events and
  •  Direct the National Green Tribunal to work out plans and policies to curb cutting of trees.
  • If trees are to be cut, direct teams of 3-4 major TV channels to select journalists to accompany the action team, so that may cover all actions round the clock.

The case has been scheduled to be taken up next on January 9, 2020.

[Read the Order]


[Read the petition here]

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