University of Mumbai
I am in receipt of an email from the office of the Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, about my complaint regarding illegal felling of trees on the Kalina campus. The email states that my complaint has been directed to you and provided the reference number as VC/ICE/2014-15/38.
In this connection, I would like to state that though the University had obtained permission for pruning 23 trees, 26 trees in fact have been hacked. Also, the permission was for pruning branches up-to 5 inches in diameter, but much larger branches have been hacked. Though the ostensible reason given was to get rid of the bats, trees like Mast tree, purple bauhinia etc, which do not harbour any bats were also hacked. Thus, it is clear that the hacking was illegal. In this connection, I am reproducing below the relevant section of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act 1975 relating to the penalty for such offences (section 21):
Whoever fells any tree or causes any tree to be felled in contravention of the provisions of the Act or without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any order issued or conditions imposed by the Tree Officer or the Tree Authority or voluntarily obstructs any member of the Tree Authority or Tree Officer or any officers and servants subordinate to him in the discharge of their functions under this Act, shall, on conviction be punished with the fine of not less them one thousand rupees which may extend up to five thousand rupees for every offence and also with imprisonment for a term of not less than one week, which may extend up to one year;
Provided that, nothing in this section shall apply to the felling of trees on or along the public roads undertaken by the Public Works Departments of the State or Central Government.
(2)The felling or causing of felling of each tree without the permission of the Tree Authority shall constitute a separate offence
The Act clearly implies that 26 separate offences should be registered in this case. Since a cognizable offence is involved, it would be inappropriate for the University to not take appropriate action against those involved. It would be illegal to shield the guilty, and I am sure that is not the administration’s intention. However, it has been nearly a week since the trees were hacked and as yet, no action has been taken. You are requested to kindly initiate appropriate legal steps in this regard at the earliest.
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