Monday, the Supreme Court reprimanded the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) for attempting to “overreach” its earlier order permitting the corporation to pursue the felling of 84 trees in Aarey forest for a Metro car shed project. The court ordered the corporation to pay a penalty of Rs 10 lakh.
In an order dated November 29, 2022, the highest court authorised MMRCL to approach the tree authority for the felling of the trees. In its application to the authority, MMRCL requested the felling of more trees than the Supreme Court’s order permitted. This request was approved.
On Monday, a three-judge bench, presided by Chief Justice of India Dy Chandrachud and consisting of Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala, deemed MMRCL’s action “inappropriate” and added that “if circumstances had occurred that led to a variation in the number of trees to be cut, the only proper course of action would have been to approach this court.”
The bench, however, refused to stay the tree authorities’ March 15, 2023 order permitting the felling of 124 trees and transplanting of 53 trees (a total of 177 trees).
The highest court stated, “Such an order would bring the public project to a halt.” This course of action would not be recommended. As the court noted in its previous order, significant progress has already been made by removing more than 2,000 trees for the endeavour. In light of the foregoing, we modify the previous order to permit MMRCL to comply with the order dated March 15, 2023.
It stated, “We are therefore of the opinion that the court should sanction MMRCL for its conduct.”
The court clarified that this is contingent upon the corporation meeting certain requirements.
“MMRCL shall deposit Rs 10 lakhs with the Chief Conservator of Forests within two weeks… The conservator of forests must ensure that all afforestation instructions contained in previous orders from the tree authorities have been complied with… “The conservator of forests shall report to this court on the status of compliance with respect to the afforestation directives,” it added.