New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to interfere with its earlier direction staying felling of trees in the national capital to make way for infrastructure and development projects.

Justice Jasmeet Singh, while dealing with a plea of the forest department seeking modification of the order to facilitate several consequently stalled infrastructure projects, warned officials of contempt action and asked them to explain why they were not involved in the "planning" of such projects so that a viable option that balances development and tree cover is explored.

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"You don't care about citizens of Delhi. You tell me what is the implementation. Every child in Delhi is suffering, every person. Winter was such a happy occasion. Now, we are shut indoors," the court observed.

"I will not allow. Take the order in appeal," Justice Singh orally remarked.

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The court was hearing the matter pursuant to an application by authorities seeking certain "clarification" on the order passed on August 31 last year, which said that no permission for felling of trees would be granted.

In the August order, Justice Singh had observed that authorities were recklessly granting permission for felling of trees and there was total non-application of mind.

Advocate Aditya N Prasad, appearing for the petitioner, said there are judicial decisions that mandate application of mind by the tree officer while allowing requests for felling of trees as well as the involvement of forest department officials in the planning stage of development projects.

The court said infrastructure projects need to go on but efforts have to be made to ensure that every tree that can be saved is saved.

The Delhi government's counsel urged the court to permit authorities concerned to consider more than 200 pending applications for tree felling or transplantation in relation to several infrastructure projects in the capital, 14 of them being from government bodies.

He had earlier said the projects have come to a halt in the city due to the blanket ban on felling of trees.

"Why are there no efforts to save the tree first? I am not saying this has to be the viable option but is this a viable option. It has to be seen," the court questioned as it remarked that before a road, an underpass or a flyover is made, an assessment can be carried out to see if the vegetation can be saved.

"I will initiate contempt against the department. This is absurd. Don't put pressure on the court," Justice Singh said.

Before he passed a formal order, Justice Singh directed that the matter be listed before the roster bench designated to hear the subject.

The Delhi government's counsel said development projects involve several government agencies and every permission granted by a tree officer to cut down a tree is available in public domain.

The court asked the counsel to state the action taken by the forest department in relation to such projects.

"People of Delhi also need trees. Why can't you strike a balance? What else do you need me to say?" Justice Singh asked.

Earlier, the court had underscored the need to balance infrastructure development with greenery and asked authorities to come up with a "comprehensive plan" for transplantation or compensatory afforestation in relation to projects requiring felling of trees.

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