This Court cannot be oblivious to the dislocation of public fund if a project like this is disregarded, the apex court said
The controversial Metro Car Shed Project in Mumbai got a go-ahead November 29, 2022.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha allowed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to go ahead with its application to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s Tree Authority for the felling of 84 trees in the Aarey area.
The apex court had ordered in August that the status quo of October 2019 would have to be maintained until further orders after the newly formed Eknath Shinde-led government considered restarting metro work at Aarey, legal website BarNBench said.
The SC gave its decision during a hearing of a suo motu plea against construction of a metro car shed in the Aarey area.
“When such a large outlay of public funds is involved, this Court cannot be oblivious to the dislocation of public fund if a project like this is disregarded. Environmental concerns are important as all development must be sustainable,” read the order.
The apex court said the ‘tree authority of the BMC will be at liberty to take an independent decision and impose conditions as deemed fit’.
BarNBench further said the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had stressed that 95 per cent of the work was over and submitted that permission had been sought for cutting just 84 trees.
He added that the cost of the project rose to Rs 37,000 crore from Rs 23,000 crore because of the delay due to the litigation.
“Vehicular traffic on the metro track would virtually go. My prayer is for 84 trees. Ninety-five per cent of the work is over. Serious prejudice would be caused to the public if the entire project is stopped because of 84 trees. No one would gain anything. So far as the trees are concerned, the trees will be transported or new trees will be planted,” he submitted, reported LiveLaw, another legal website.
However Senior Advocate Chander Uday Singh and Anitha Shenoy, appearing for the activists opposing the felling of trees stated that except for a pillar, no construction has taken place.
They added that Rs 23,000 crore was the cost of the whole project, not just the metro car shed. They also stressed on the sensitive ecology of the Aarey region and availability of an alternate site at Kanjurmarg.
“The (government-appointed) committee found Rs 1,850 crore will be saved if it is merged with Kanjurmarg and that it serves as a better place for insertion of trains to come inside or leave. No residential places also nearby,” Singh said, reported BarN Bench.
Shenoy submitted that Aarey has 40 different species of trees and according to the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board, a train or car shed is a red category industry which causes most pollution in an ecologically sensitive area.
The Court observed that the Maharashtra Government’s fresh decision to restore the location of the car shed at Aarey, after changing its earlier decision to relocate the same to Kanjurmarg, was based on relevant considerations and “it would be impossible for this Court to stay the decision at the interim stage”, reported LiveLaw.
The final hearing will take place in February 2023.
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