Calcutta HC imposes Rs 40 crore cost on man to compound offence of felling 60 trees from his property
The court said that the compensation shall be used to develop the environment in general and maintenance of better vigil against illegal tree felling
The Calcutta High Court has imposed costs of Rs. 40 crore as a condition for compounding offences charged against a man for felling of over 60 trees from his property.
The petitioner had been charged under Section 11 (penalty for felling of trees) of the West Bengal Trees Protection and Conservation in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2006.
While permitting the offences to be compounded, Justice Rajasekhar Mantha also directed the petitioner to plant and ensure the growth of approximately 100 trees on the premises, Bar & Bench reported.
“This court is, therefore, inclined to permit compounding of the aforesaid offences mentioned in the aforesaid charge-sheet only upon payment of Rs. 40 crore to the respondent no.2 within a period of 15 days from date,” the order stated.
The petitioner had approached the court seeking the compounding of the offence as per Section 16 of the Act.
He claimed that the hacking of trees was done only in compliance with a notice of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to remove stagnant water accumulating in the property in order to discourage disease-carrying insects.
It was also argued that the petitioner was a first-time offender and would replant double the number of trees in order to compensate for the felling.
The court rejected the petitioner’s claim that the felling was only for removal of stagnant water, noting that the cutting of trees had nothing to do with the same.
Justice Mantha observed that even though the arguments made by the petitioner were ‘attractive’, the irreplaceable damage to the environment by the felling of over 60 trees could not be ignored.
“While the entreaties made by the petitioner appear to be attractive, one cannot lose sight of the fact that each tree, totalling 62 (sixty two) in numbers has left a permanent wound on the environment. Irreparable damage has been caused to society by the conduct of the petitioner", the court said.
All the same, the court reasoned that punishing the petitioner under the Act would not bring back the trees. On the other hand, compensation would be a just and fair penalty, penance and retribution, the judge opined.
The court added that the compensation shall be used to develop the environment in general and maintenance of better vigil against illegal tree felling.
The court also clarified that the payment would not in itself allow the petitioners to develop on the property, which would still be subject to permission from all statutory authorities.