India: Court battle rages over status of coconut palms as ‘trees’
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India: Court battle rages over status of coconut palms as ‘trees’

A HIGHLY contentious legal battle is underway in Goa, in the south western region of India, over whether or not the coconut plant should be categorized as a tree.

This follows the Goa state government’s formal declaration that the coconut plant was not a tree over a month ago.

The removal of the plant’s status was due to ‘cumbersome’ bureaucratic procedures involved as people were required to seek authorization from the forest department to cut down the plant.

An ongoing debate over the matter led the state cabinet to convene a meeting chaired by chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar.

An amendment to the Trees Act was passed by the assembly in January, and subsequently saw the removal of the status which defined coconut palms as a tree.

Laxmikant Parsekar had earlier said the law was amended to allow farmers to replace non-productive trees without being caught in red-tape. Currently, a courtroom battle over the status is still in progress.

According to the India Times, the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court spoke to the state chief secretary, asking for response to a petition challenging the Goa government’s decision under the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984.

The petition was raised by heritage activist Prajal Sakhardande, chairperson of the ‘Goa For Giving Trust’, Armando Gonsalves, and Mumbai-based trust, Vanashakt, to demand what was dubbed ‘tree-hood’ for the plant.

“The government, through the chief secretary, has been asked to file a response by June 13, when the next hearing has been scheduled,” Sakhardande was quoted as saying.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government has been slammed by its opposition and environmentalists for passing the bill which would allow the “mass massacre of coconut trees in the state”.

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