The Bombay High Court has asked the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) to not cut trees at Aarey Colony for a metro rail carshed, until further clarification regarding number of trees to be felled, is sought from the Supreme Court.

The Bench of Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V. Marne said that “It is not a matter of debate that the Hon’ble Apex Court has granted permission to the MMRCL to move the Tree Authority, to the extent of 84 trees. However, the impugned permission is for 177 trees. The same is beyond the liberty granted by the Apex Court under the judgment dated 29th November 2022. In light of that, it will not be possible for this Court to accept the contention of respondents that the respondent no. 1 could permit the respondent no. 2 to fell trees beyond 84.”

Senior Advocate Venkatesh Dhond appeared for the petitioner and Senior Advocates Milind Sathe and Ashutosh Kumbhakoni appeared for the respondent.

The Public Interest Litigation was preferred by activist Zoru Bathena against the order of the Tree Authority whereby the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) was permitted to cut 177 trees for its metro project at Aarey Colony.

The Supreme Court by its order dated November 29, 2022, had permitted MMRCL to move to the BMC’s Tree Authority for felling 84 trees for clearance of the shunting neck area. However, in March the BMC Commissioner granted permission to fell 177 trees.

The Counsel for the MMRCL justified the increase in the number of trees and submitted that the earlier application for felling trees was of 2019 and over the years shrubs had grown into trees.

The High Court said that the order was passed by the Supreme Court granting permission to file application for felling of the trees, as it believed that unless the shunting neck area was clean-shaved, the metro project could not be implemented.

“There is no doubt that the metro project involves public interest and public purpose. There cannot be any debate in the proposition that the balance has to be struck between sustainable development and ecology.” said the High Court.

Therefore, the High Court expressed that it would not be possible to accept the contention of BMC and MMRCL that the civic body could permit felling of trees beyond 84 trees.

Accordingly, the High Court said that an application, filed by the MMRCL before the Apex Court seeking clarification on the same will come up for hearing on April 11, and further listed the matter for hearing on April 27.

Cause Title- Zoru Darayus Bathena v. Tree Authority, MCGM, Mumbai & Anr.

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