Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Monday defended the powers given to the municipal commissioner to allow applications for cutting 25 or less trees. It said the commissioner, who is also a member of the tree authority that falls under BMC, has the authority to allow faster clearance to small proposals, which need to be cleared on priority for the welfare of citizens.Senior Advocate Anil Sakhare, appearing for the civic body filed an affidavit saying the amendment to section 8, which confers powers to the commissioner, is not unguided and arbitrary.A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla has asked the BMC and Thane Municipal Commissioners (TMC) to inform the court about their decision by Tuesday, on whether they would publish their orders for citizens to raise objections if any, until the pendency of the petitions. It said “When there is no appeal option available on the municipal commissioner’s orders in the statute (as per the amended Maharashtra — Urban Areas Protection and Preservation of Trees Act), then until the challenge to it is decided by this court, will the commissioners, make this statement.”The bench raised this question while hearing the petition filed by activist Zoru Bathena, who has challenged the constitutional validity of the amendment. Counsel for the petitioner argued, “Law does not give indication of why below 25 trees permission can be decided by the municipal commissioner. There is no justification for the discrimination and it is seen that for a single project, applications are made sections wise, to bypass the powers of the tree authority, where there would be deliberation/discussion by experts on whether to allow or not the tree cutting application.”

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Chief’s powers to decide on proposals of cutting trees not arbitrary, says BMC