According to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) can pursue its application before the Tree Authority to fell 84 trees for the construction of a ramp for the project by refusing to stay the Maharashtra government’s decision to allow the car depot to be located in Aarey region.
A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha ruled that the court would not be able to stay the decision on an interim basis.
The court stated that the Tree Authority was free to make independent decisions and impose any conditions that it deemed appropriate.
A court was hearing an application by the MMRCL requesting the modification of its order dated October 7, 2019, in which it had ordered that the status quo at Aarey be maintained, and the felling of trees be stopped.
The MMRCL stated that although it had applied to the Tree Authority for permission to fell the trees, it had not yet received any response due to the status quo order of the top court.
Upon considering the request, the bench stated that “The order of this court, which has the effect of directing the preservation of the status quo on the felling of trees, shall accordingly stand modified to the extent indicated above so that MMRCL may proceed with its application for the removal of 84 trees through the Tree Authority.”
Those opposed to the construction of the car shed at Aarey have objected to the grant of any relief before the apex court has decided on their appeals against the project.
According to the Supreme Court, however, there is an affirmative view expressed by the Bombay High Court, which held that both the permission to fell trees and the decision to locate the Metro car shed on the land at Aarey were valid.
In such cases, the court cannot ignore the serious dislocation that would result from disregarding the public investment which has been made into the project. Certainly, considerations related to the environment are important in order to promote sustainable development. The decision has been made, be sustainable,” it stated.
According to the court, several trees have already been felled in the area that falls within the car depot and ramp segment.
A total of 2,144 trees were felled during the construction of the car depot, while 212 trees were felled during the construction of the ramp. The Tree Authority is requesting permission to remove 84 trees on the ramp. The work that has already been completed would be of no consequence and would be ineffective without a ramp. Therefore, given the above circumstances, we believe that MMRCL should be permitted to apply for permission to fall 84 trees for the purpose of the ramp before the Tree Authority. A bench of the Tree Authority will have the authority to impose such conditions as it deems necessary,” said the bench.
In the first week of February 2023, the court will hear the appeals against the location of the car shed on Aarey land.