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Historic judgement by Calcutta High Court Directs Man to Pay Rs 40 Cr Penalty for Axing 62 Trees

For compounding the illegal cutting of trees the court has asked the petitioner to pay 40 croees for 62 trees..

‘Permanent Wound On Environment’: Calcutta High Court Directs Man to Pay Rs 40 Crore Penalty For Axing 62 Trees

The Calcutta High Court last week directed one Soumitra Kanti Dey to pay a penalty amount of Rs 40 crores and also plant 100 trees for illegally cutting down nearly 62 trees on a premises, under the garb of removing stagnated water.

“The cutting of trees has nothing to do with the removal of accumulated water. Yet under the garb of removing water, as many as 62 (sixty two) trees have been cut,” the Court observed at the outset.

The order was additionally passed against the real estate group Emaar India Limited, owner of the land in question, which appeared to have intended to construct a seven star hotel at the location.

“This Court is, therefore, inclined to permit compounding of the aforesaid offences mentioned in the aforesaid charge- 3 sheet only upon payment of Rs. 40 (Forty) crores to the respondent no.2 within a period of 15 days from date. The petitioner and/or the owner of the property M/s. Emaar India Limited would additionally have to plant and ensure growth of about 100 trees on the said premises,” the Court ordered.

In the instant case, the petitioner (Soumitra Kanti Dey) had been charged with offences under Section 11(1) of the West Bengal Trees (Protection And Conservation In Non-Forest Areas) Act, 2006 (2006 Act) on February 27, 2021 for cutting down 63 trees under the garb of removing stagnant water. Accordingly the petitioner had applied for compounding of the offence under Section 16 of the 2006 Act vide the instant petition. Compounding of the offence had also been sought on the ground that the petitioner is a first time offender and that he is willing to replant double the number of trees in the concerned plot as the Forest Department may direct.

Midle of the post

Justice Rajasekhar Mantha observed,

“While the entreaties made by the petitioner appear to be attractive, one cannot loose sight of the fact that each tree, totaling 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 further opined that punishing the petitioner by imprisoning him for a ‘limited time’ as envisaged under the 2006 Act would not bring back the trees. As a result, it was observed that compensating the State/Forest Department would be ‘just and fair penalty, penance and retribution’.

The Court ordered that the compensation must be used to develop the environment in general and maintain better vigil against illegal tree felling. Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea for compounding of the aforementioned offences.

The petition was disposed of with the following observation,

“It is made clear that the payment of the said amount would not ipso facto entitle the petitioner to develop the property. The same would be subject to permission of all the authorities under all applicable Statutes and Rules”

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