SC slaps Rs 10 lakh fine on Mumbai metro, but permits felling of 177 trees in Aarey forest

Controversy over constructing a metro car shed inside Aarey has been brewing since 2014

By Arya Rohini
Published: Monday 17 April 2023
The apex court observed that MMRC had attempted to overreach the court’s jurisdiction. Representative photo: iStock.
The apex court observed that MMRC had attempted to overreach the court’s jurisdiction. Representative photo: iStock. The apex court observed that MMRC had attempted to overreach the court’s jurisdiction. Representative photo: iStock.

The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to pay a fine of Rs 10 lakh within two weeks for seeking to cut more trees in the Aarey forest in violation of an SC order. 

On April 17, 2023, the court observed that MMRCL had attempted to overreach the court’s jurisdiction. It was improper on MMRCL’s part to move the tree authority for the felling of any trees over the permitted 84, a bench lead by DY Chandrachud said.

Also read: SC lifts status quo on tree felling for Metro Car Shed in Aarey forest

The apex court, however, allowed MMRCL to remove 177 trees from the forest to construct a metro car shed in adherence with the tree authority’s decision of March 15. It observed that a stay on tree felling would result in the public project coming to a halt, which is not ideal.

At the beginning of the hearing, the chief justice pulled up MMRCL and said, “You people think you can take SC for a ride. You cannot overreach the court. Officers of MMRCL should also be sent to jail. Ask the CEO of MMRCL to be present in court,” reported news website India Today.

MMRCL, within two weeks, should provide an amount of Rs 10 lakhs to the conservator of forests. The bench said the conservator should ensure that all afforestation which has been directed is completed.

The court also asked the director of IIT Bombay to depute a team to verify compliance. “A report should be submitted to this court in three weeks,” it added.

Also read: Revisiting 2019 Aarey forest study: Why Metro project is a threat to biodiversity park

The controversy over constructing a metro car shed at Aarey has been brewing since 2014. Attempts to move the car shed from Aarey to Kanjurmarg have resulted in significant conflict between the Shiv Sena and its former ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Aarey Milk Colony, an 1,800-acre urban forest in suburban Goregaon surrounded by concrete structures and home to over 300 species of flora and fauna, was chosen as the site for the car shed by the BJP-led Maharashtra government, then led by then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The Sena, a partner in Fadnavis’s government, fought the move, with Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray in the lead.

Later, Uddhav Thackeray reversed the plan to construct the shed in Aarey on November 29, 2019, a day after taking office. He halted the work on the Aarey project and announced that the shed would be built on Kanjurmarg’s salt pans. Furthermore, about 800 acres of land in Aarey was declared a reserve forest.

The issue popped up again after a change of government in Maharashtra when Chief Minister Eknath Shinde overturned Uddhav Thackeray’s decision to shift the car shed out of the Aarey colony in 2022.

The authorities allegedly began tree cutting in the Aarey forest region in contravention of the SC’s status quo ruling, several petitions by activists and locals said.

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