SC tells Mumbai developer to comply with NGT orders and pay Rs. 40 lakh fine
The Supreme Court refused to interfere with an order of National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune that had imposed Rs 40 lakh fine on Mumbai based Vikas Developers for illegally cutting a hill in Khandala. A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta dismissed an appeal filed by the builder against the NGT order that had relied on Google imagery to demonstrate existence of hill and green cover.
“We see no reason to interfere with the NGT order,” said the SC bench in its July 31 order after hearing senior counsel Shekhar Naphade for the developer. Stressing that “unauthorized tree cutting as well as hill cutting is an offence to environment”, the NGT, Pune bench had directed Vikas Developers not to illegally cut trees on a hilly plot in Khandala and to deposit Rs 40 lakh with the Lonavla Municipal Council towards expenses for restoring the hill.
Former president of the Indian Merchants Chamber Nanik Rupani and businessman Ashish Vaid, in an application to the NGT in 2015, said, “The builder illegally cut the hillside and felled trees to make an illegal road without permission from the municipal council.” Both Rupani and Vaid are members of Vikas Valley Cooperative Housing Society, which comprises plots and bungalows in Khandala that were constructed by Vikas Developers, a proprietary concern of Madan Lal Gupta Family Trust during 1992-2004.
Their plea, argued by advocate Aditya Pratap, before the NGT had sought “restitution of the environment to its original state”.
The developer denied any wrong-doing or illegality. He questioned the timing of the application and said it was filed “deliberately with ulterior motives’’ with falsehoods about a road when there were steps in existence at the site.