Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner, D Ward, said one tree each was hacked the same day at Pedder Road and Cadbury Junction as well. “We have filed FIRs in these cases too,” said Gaikwad.
The hacking of a fully grown tree is an example of how people axe them with impunity. While BMC filed a police complaint after residents and activists raised an alarm and cops made arrests, they should have prevented the brazen hacking in the city. The incident highlights that tree protection laws are not taken seriously.
The four arrested for hacking the banyan have been identified as Sameer Quereshi, Shafiq Darji, Hiralal Darshan and Mohammed Chinu. “They have been booked under various sections of Indian Penal Code and Maharashtra Preservation of Trees Act, 1971. “Investigations have revealed they cut the tree to clear the view for the hoardings. We, though, will only be able to say that conclusively once the other three accused are arrested. We will then be able to know on whose instructions the tree was cut. They have been remanded to judicial custody,” said Rajeev Sawant, assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Gamdevi division.
Last week, after residents complained, BMC filed a written complaint with MRA Marg police. BMC asked the police to book the advertising company.
Tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted: “With regards to this, this was one of our most beautiful spots in that vicinity. It has been illegally hacked by someone and those culprits won’t be spared whoever it is. I have spoken to Jt CP L&O Vishwas Nangre Patil and Asst Comm Prashant Gaikwad. We will act strongly.”
BMC filed a police complaint and asked them to register an offence under sections 8 and 21 of Maharashtra Preservation of Trees Act.
“If the police conclude the trees were hacked to clear the view for the hoardings, we will take action to revoke the licence of the advertising company that owns the hoarding. As per the licence conditions, it is the responsibility of the hoarding owner to take care of trees in the vicinity,” said Gaikwad.