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India


Aarey Forest tree cutting case: SC refuses to stay Maha govt decision to allow Metro car shed at Aarey

Aarey Forest tree cutting case: SC refuses to stay Maha govt decision to allow Metro car shed at Aarey

New Delhi, Nov 29 (UNI) Supreme Court in its interim order on Tuesday allows the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to obtain permission to cut 84 trees for the Aarey metro car shed project, and granted liberty to the Tree Authority to take appropriate decision with suitable conditions in the case.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chadrachud, and also comprising Justice P S Narasimha, passed the interim order today.
The Supreme Court was hearing the Aarey Forest case where it was considering primarily a Maharashtra govt plea seeking nod to cut 84 trees for a shunting site, and other interim applications.
During the course of the hearing today, the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, senior law officer appearing for the MMRCL, told the Apex Court that due to the delay caused by these pleas in the SC, opposing metro shed at Aarey, there has been a cost escalation of Rs 15,000 Crore (From Rs 22,000 Crore to Rs 37,000 Cr).
While passing the interim order today, the Apex Court noted that, prima facie, there is a view of the Bombay High Court which holds as valid that the felling of the trees as well as the decision to locate the metro car shed at Aarey.
"In such projects involving large outlay of public funds, the Court cannot be oblivious of the serious dislocations caused if the public investment which goes into the project is disregarded. Undoubtedly, the concerns relating to environment are important, as all development must be sustainable," the Apex Court noted in its order.
Mehta also told the Top Court that 95% of the work is over, and submitted that permission is sought for cutting just 84 trees.
Mehta made it clear to the Supreme Court that data shows that every day at least 9 citizens die daily due to overcrowding in trains. The issue was related to a citizen's legitimate expectation to travel comfortably.
He also said that there will be a huge impact on carbon emission going down. Vehicular traffic on the metro track would virtually go. We will see the comparative benefits of having it or not having it. My prayer is for 84 trees.
"90 percent work is over and if the project is held up for 84 trees, then it will cause serious prejudice to public interest," Mehta pleaded to the Supreme Court.
The bench in its order said that the State Government had considered several factors, such as the letter written by the Central Government and expert committee reports, while coming to the conclusion that the original decision to allow the metro car depot for Metro line 3 at Aarey should be restored.
Senior lawyer, Chander Uday Singh, appearing for activists opposing the felling of trees, told the Supreme Court that Rs 23,000 crores is the investment for the whole project and not for the car shed. As regards the car shed, he submitted that except for a pillar, no construction has taken place, in view of the orders of the Supreme Court.
Singh stated that after the new government under Chief Minister Eknath Shinde took over on June 30, the first decision announced was to resume the work at Aarey shed. He said that the decision was taken without a cabinet and only with the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister.
"There was an earlier decision taken to relocate the project to Kanjurmarg, which was taken on the basis of expert committee reports. However, the decision was reversed by the new government without any consideration of the relevant aspects," Singh alleged.
UNI SM GNK

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