Fast urbanisation, globalization, industrialisation has resulted in indiscriminate felling of a large number of trees in both rural as well as urban areas of the country has led to global warming. On this World Environment Day, M.G.Kumar Law Firm as part of our pro-bono initiatives aims to educate our fellow citizens of basic environment laws which could help us stop the illegal cutting of trees and contribute towards saving the plant.

Any person who wants to fell a tree, whether in his ownership or occupancy or otherwise, must obtain prior permission from the Deputy Conservator of Forests or the Tree Officer appointed under the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976. No person can cut a tree except with permission of this Tree Officer. Section 2(g) of the Act defines ‘Tree’ as any woody plant whose branches spring from and are supported upon a trunk or body and which trunk or body is not less than 5.5 cm in diameter and not less than 1 mtr in height from the ground level and includes palms, bamboos, stumps brushwood, canes and seedlings of such tree but does not include sandal and rosewood trees. However, trees such as Casuarina, Coconut, Erythrina, Eucalyptus, Glyricidia, Hopea whitiana, Rubber Prosophis, Sesbenia, Silver Oak, Sabubal, Areca nut, Coffee, Guava, Hebbevu, Ailanthus excelsa, Lemon, Maeopsis eminii, Mango, Sapota, Seemegala, Burma Bamboo, Yellow Bamboo, Acacia mangium, Acacia Hybrid, Acrocarpus fraxnifolius  and Cashew do not require permission from the Officer.

The person who desires to cut the tree must make an application to the Officer in writing and further provide the site plan or survey sketch specifying clearly the site or survey numbers, the number of trees, the kind and girth of the tree sought to be cut and the reason for chopping the tree. In case the felling is for the purpose of Coffee cultivation, a Certificate from Coffee Board must be obtained and for Rubber Cultivation or for Cardamum Cultivation Certificate from the respective Boards must be obtained. For the purposes of construction of building, a Certificate from Village Panchayat or Executive Officers of the Municipality is mandatory. If the property is jointly owned by several persons, then unconditional consent from such owners must be obtained.        In case of hindrance caused by trees in pavement or public places, the applicant must provide photos along with reasons showing the inconvenience caused by the tree and apply to the Horticultural Officer. On receipt of the application, the Tree Officer after investing the tree must dispose the Application within a period of 3 months under the Act.

The Tree Officer cannot refuse permission in case the tree is dead, diseased or wind-fallen; or has silviculturally matured; or constitutes a danger to life or property or constitutes obstruction to traffic or is substantially damaged or destroyed by fire, lightning, rain or other natural causes; or is required to be removed either for cultivation or for the bonafide use of the applicant.

Where permission to fell a tree is granted, the Tree Officer may grant it subject to the condition that the applicant shall plant another tree or trees of the same or any other suitable species on the same site or other suitable place within thirty days from the date the tree is felled or within such extended time as the Tree Officer may allow. In our opinion, if the tree officer makes it necessary for every applicant to plant two trees for every tree felled, Bangalore has a chance to revive its status of Greenest City in India.

Further, section 9 of the Act gives the Tree Officer power to direct an owner or occupant of any land, to plant such trees or additional trees upon his land within 30 days of such Order and it shall be the duty of such owner or occupant to nourish and ensure that the tree grows properly. A person or body corporate can make an application to this Tree Officer to adopt any tree within its limits. The same would qualify as Corporate Social Responsibility under Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013.

Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of the Act or orders made thereunder shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both. Upon such conviction the court may order any property in respect of which the offence is committed to be forfeited to the State Government. Hence, incase of illegal tree being cut in your neighbourhood, please inform the Tree Officer or the jurisdictional Police Station. If the Police does not take action, you can approach the Commissioner of Police and complain regarding the inaction.