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Peter   04 July 2023

Possible misuse of disaster management act provisions for settling scores with neighbour

There is a coconut tree near the property line that we share with a neighbour. This tree leans towards the neighbour's property, but away from their house. It is wholly located within our boundaries. It is a very healthy tree, with healthy roots and no sign of any disease. There are also two thick steel support cables that are tied to the tree to anchor points in our property as extra support.

This tree was in it's present position before the neighbours bought this house and they were well aware of it. It was a non-issue for them then, but since they bought the house, they were pestering my dad to cut it down, which at one point led to a verbal quarrel. Since then, they use any means possible to have the tree removed. Now they are misusing the District Collector's orders on disaster management and putting pressure on us to have the tree removed, claiming that it poses danger to their life and property. We feel that they are misusing a law to settle a score with my dad. Healthy, disease-free trees such as this take a very long time to yield, lasts for several decades and are resilient to even hurricane strength winds. With the support steel cables on it, there is no chance that the tree will fall in the neighbour's direction, even in the worst case scenario.

Do we have a recourse in this matter or are we simply forced to give in to their false complaint, claiming relief? Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks.


 4 Replies

Real Soul.... (LEGAL)     04 July 2023

Since the tree is leaning in the neighbor’s property he has right to object as that is nuisance and he can bring action against you under law of Torts.   It is better to cut the branches that lean over another's property.

Niharika Lohan   05 July 2023

Hi Peter, I’m Adv. Niharika and here is my take on your query.

I can understand that it is a healthy tree without any disease and even if it leans towards the side of your neighbour’s property, it is absolutely harmless. However, it is the property of your neighbour upon which the tree is leaning and in very simple terms, he gets to call the shots on the things upon his property. The reason of his adamant behaviour can certainly be the feud you have mentioned but legally, his right is well reserved to ask you to cut that part of the tree which is hindering his premises.

this case has facts aligned with your case wherein the Madras High Court in the decision reported in Batcha Rowther v. Alagappan Servai, AIR 1959 Mad 12, held : "The owner of a tree has no right to allow its branches to overhang the land of his neighbour. If he does so the neighbour can cut the branches so long as he could do so without entering upon the land of the owner of the tree. He need not even give a notice to the owner. The owner of the tree cannot acquire any right by prescripttion to allow his branches to overhang because an old nuisance cannot by passage of time become a respectable nuisance. Merely because the previous owner did not object, perhaps due to his relationship with the owner of the tree, it cannot be said that there has been acquiescence and therefore the succeeding owner is estopped or prevented from claiming relief against the nuisance." 
 I'm futher attaching a relevant thread upon the same topic for your convinent reading, which has been exhautively discussed by learned experts. Kindly find the link below.

If you have any further query you can contact me via email at

Peter   07 July 2023

Thank you Adv.Niharika for the detailed reply. The argument here is not about overhanging branches (the tree does not cross the boundary line). It is about his fear that if the tree ever falls, it will be in to his compound. I do have one question: does the fact that this tree was how it now even when this "neighbor" bought the house make a difference? Doesn't it mean that he was aware of it's posture before he bought the house and willingly took the risk?


Asok (NA)     18 May 2024

Thank you, Adv. Niharika, for your insightful and logical comments, which are indeed legally sound. I find myself in a situation similar to that of Mr. Peter's new neighbour, which I have been facing for the past three years. Despite my repeated pleas, my own neighbour fails to recognize the potential legal consequences he may face under the disaster management act provisions if we pursued that route.

I am astounded by how people nowadays seem to chase material gains without rationally considering the dangers posed by something as ordinary as a coconut tree. My mother has already suffered from this negligence; a falling coconut from my neighbor's tree struck her. Consider what could happen if a coconut fell from a height of 20 meters directly strike some one’s head. Just for your understanding Mr. Peter; using the basic formula for impact force; one can infer that if it struck someone on the head, it could be fatal. I trust you understand the severity of this risk.

Also, Mr. Petter, it's important to understand that a coconut tree with only a trunk may survive a hurricane. However, if there are coconuts and leaves present, it significantly compromises the tree's ability to withstand strong winds, like those in hurricanes or even less severe storms. Moreover, while thick steel support cables may initially seem like a solid protective measure, they can actually cause more harm than good. The constant stress exerted by these cables can weaken the tree's structure over time, potentially leading to breakage and reduced lifespan, which should be a serious concern for any tree owner. Even in my own farmhouse, I have noticed how steel cables can harm the trees. These considerations are crucial when planning measures to safeguard your tree, particularly when it comes to human safety.

I understand and respect your emotional connection to the tree; however, I urge you to consider this matter from your neighbour’s perspective or simply from a humanistic standpoint, setting aside materialistic pride. Remember, it is your neighbour’s property that is affected by falling debris from your tree (an issue I am all too familiar with). Therefore, they have every right to determine what happens with objects on their property and potentially file a lawsuit with a mandatory injunction to remove the nuisance.

As Adv. Niharika pointed out, "The fact that the previous owner did not object—perhaps due to good rapport with the owner of the tree—does not imply acquiescence; hence, it does not prevent the new owner from seeking relief against such nuisances."

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