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Exercise Of Contempt Jurisdiction By Delhi High Court In An Endeavour To Rejuvenate The Capital's Green Lands

"The shaft of beauty, towering high,
He plants a home to heaven anigh"

Through these lines taken from The Heart of the Tree ,a poem written by the American writer Henry Cuyler Bunner emphasises on the favours trees do for the human kind and their importance in the world's sustenance. He says one who plants a tree is planting a shade, soft rains and future buds. When a tree grows it offers support to its surroundings and while it dies it will spread its seeds and give life to more trees. Forest is the natural heritage we own and a person who plants a tree is adding on to this heritage. This cycle of life is what keeps the world going. There is birth, death and regeneration of various species. By understanding this cycle and heritage one is offering more trees and a prosperous future to the younger generations.

Before we venture into how judiciary is acting as a torch bearer to transform environment through tree plantation it becomes pertinent to see the various advantages of tree plantation.Since trees act as a sink of CO2 planting billions of trees across the world increases the carbon sequestration capacity of the earth hence becoming one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis. They help to purify the air, natural air conditioning, save water and replenish the soil moisture, regulate the rainfall pattern in a particular region. . Just around one-third of all current atmospheric emissions from human activities may be eliminated by a worldwide planting campaign.

The Indian Judiciary has established itself as the protector of trees and green cover after realizing the possibilities of tree plantation. The Delhi High Court has found a novel technique to expand the city's green cover in addition to staying the government's decision to cut down trees for construction projects. Those litigants who waste the court's valuable time and resources may wind up performing social service work by planting trees in their community.


In recent years, Delhi High Court has used its contempt jurisdiction to rejuvenate the forest area in the city. Through its series of judgements the court provided directions for planting trees across different locations in Delhi. Hon'ble Mr. Justice Najmi Waziri in Aparna Bhat submits that it is all the more important that on both sides of the road between ISBT to Singhu Border thick plantation be carried out to facilitate reduction of the high decibel levels to control noise pollution. Similarly, as per the order dated 01.08.2022, 8,500 trees were to be planted in the Central Ridge out of which 4,600 trees were already planted.

The figure has now reached 7,000. Also to overcome petty theft crime in the region, Delhi High court is using tree plantation to serve justice as well as to protect environment. Hon'ble Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva in Shiva @ Gaurav & Anr. vs The State (Govt. Of Nct Of Delhi) has directed a man to plant 50 trees as community service while agreeing to close criminal proceedings against him in a power theft case.

Also,500 trees have been planted in the city by three PWD officials, who were held guilty of contempt of court earlier this year for violating judicial orders on the protection of trees. Justice Najmi Waziri was informed by the counsel for the PWD officials that they have planted 547 trees of various varieties at the identified spots at Mathura Road and the remaining shall be planted by July 31.

Also , Justice Jasmeet Singh in Harish Chandra Agrawal vs State Of Nct Delhi gave the decision asking parties to plant 200 trees each as condition for compromise in cheating case after observing that the complainant is an old woman who wants to put an end to the proceedings. Since the dispute is of civil nature, the court allowed the parties to reach a compromise with the condition.

Similarly to deal with delay in implementation of orders and ordered the plantation of trees in different areas of Delhi as a cost against state agencies or officials for not filing replies in time to the litigations filed by citizens.The Delhi High court ordered the South Delhi Municipal Corporation will have to plant 150 trees within ten days on the eastern side of the Blind School flyover towards Panj Peeran graveyard for not complying with an order directing it to file a status report in a contempt case.

The Delhi High Court has recently asked the Forest Department of the Delhi Government to explore the possibility of planting Amaltas trees (Indica Laburnum) in the freed-up land opposite the Supreme Court of India, calling the area heart of the city. Arguments like these show the long-standing importance of trees in the well-being of the ecosystem and society at large and how judiciary is acting as a torchbearer of change in this direction.

More than a social responsibility tree plantation balances right and duty of citizens. The right to clean and healthy environment has been recognized as the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 48-A imposes duty upon the State to endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the Country. Hence, it is essential to strike the right balance between environmental conservation and protection on one hand, and the right to development on the other, while articulating the doctrine of sustainable development.

Individuals could make a tangible impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organizations, and avoiding irresponsible companies. Judiciary is banking upon the power of individual efforts to increase the green cover of the capital, in a series of orders the Delhi HC has sent litigants to plant trees under the support and supervision of the Forest Department as a precondition to ending criminal proceedings against them. In this context, the Court has opined that public participation in this regard should be encouraged so that they too have a sense of participation in the development of the city, a view also taken by the Supreme Court in T. N. Godavarman Thirumulapad v. Union of India.

Despite, tremendous efforts and work done to promote plantation some problems remain incidental issues such as coordination between different bodies like the Forest Department, Municipal Corporation, CPWD, DDA, Delhi Police, etc. Encroachment on forest lands, garbage disposal, poor participation from the community, lack of support and coordination between state governments and central government , mining operations, allegation of judicial adventurism practised by the judiciary without calculating impact on the environment.

To overcome these issues some guidelines and SOPs have been formulated by the Supreme Court in T. N. Godavarman Thirumulapad v. Union of India. Firstly, species of the trees that must be planted based on ecological significance. Secondly,a mechanism for assessment of both the intrinsic and instrumental value of the trees based not only on the value of timber but also the ecosystem services rendered by the trees.

Thirdly, provide special treatment for the geographical areas or eco-sensitive areas and may identify areas that need to be regulated. Clearly, in light of the above information & all things considered the Indian Judiciary & Government has instituted many laws and schemes for the protection of nature and ultimately it is our duty as an individual to contribute to the protection of the environment and to secure the future of upcoming generations.

Written By: Vidushi Vihan

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