CHENNAI: The First Bench of the Madras High Court has set aside a GO of the State Environment and Forest Department exempting silver oak trees from the purview of the Tamil Nadu Timber Transit (TNTT) Rules.
The Bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh quashed the order dated August 1, 2012, while allowing a PIL from S Jayachandran, joint secretary of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement, on Friday.
“We absolutely do not find any material to show that the Environment and Forest Department secretary had applied his mind to the impact of ecology, water preservation, indiscriminate cutting of trees, protection of green cover and improvement of soil health, apart from protection against excessive sunlight while passing the rules of exemption,” the Bench observed.
According to petitioner, silver oak trees are an exotic species planted mainly as plantation crops in the hilly areas. They act as shade trees, besides improving the soil health by adding organic substance. While so, acting on representations from the merchants and labourers, the State Forest Ministry raised a query over the possible effect on eco-system, despite the recommendation of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest to include the silver oak in the TNTT Rules. A reply stating that there would not be any adverse effect since the trees were grown only as shade trees by the farmers/planters and not by the Forest Department in the forest lands, the impugned GO was passed exempting the silver oak trees from the purview of the TNTT Rules.
Rejecting the submission of the Additional Advocate-General that the power to amend the rules rested with it, the Bench quashed the 2012 GO.