Calcutta High Court on Friday paved the way for a new lease of life for the 200-year-old Indian Botanic Garden, in Howrah, and the even older “great banyan tree”, around which the garden was built.
Based on a petition filed by environment activist Subhas Dutta, also general secretary of Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, the court directed that a committee be set up to save the historic garden and the tree. Dutta had alleged that both were being damaged by “anti-social activity”. A number of rare trees and plants were being destroyed, he claimed, because of the negligence of the management.
The green bench of the court also directed the petitioner to make the state government a party to the case. The bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas, observed that the experts’ committee would have to include representatives from both Central and state governments, as well as the petitioner’s organisation.
Dutta, appearing in person, told the court that Botanical Survey of India joint director G.S. Giri had written to the Howrah superintendent of police recently, asking him to take steps to save the banyan tree from the hands of hooligans, who had taken shelter in the garden.
The joint director, in his letter, stated that an unauthorised mazhar, situated close to the tree, was gradually encroaching further. He said one of the occupants had demanded that the garden gate on the mazhar side be kept open and temporary toilets be constructed during a festival. When the proposal was refused, the joint director was threatened and the police had to be called in.
Reacting sharply to the letter, the chief justice said the state government was in charge of maintaining law and order. “The garden and the tree, which finds mention in the Guinness Book Of World Records, should be saved.”