THE BOMBAY High Court on Wednesday directed the five directors of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) to give a hearing to the Zoroastrian community, which had approached the court against the construction of the underground Colaba-Bandra-SEEEPZ Metro 3 corridor under two Atash Behrams — sacred fire temples.
The community has claimed that the proposed alignment of the Metro 3 corridor under the two Atash Behrams, located at the junction of Princess Street and Kalbadevi, may damage the structures.
A vacation bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice A S Gadkari directed the committee comprising five directors of MMRC board to grant a hearing to the high priests of the community, trustees of the two Atash Behrams and the five petitioners — structural engineer Jamshed Sukhadwalla, senior solicitor Berjis Desai, Zarathusthrian scholar priest Rooyintan Peer and two trustees of Shah Varzaavand Trust, a public charitable trust. The court recorded the statement of the MMRC counsel who said that drilling work at the Metro site would not touch the Atash Behrams till the next hearing on June 14. The community members have challenged the proposed tunnels under the around 180-year-old H B Wadia Atash Behram and 120-year-old Zarthosti Anjuman Atash Behram. They contended that tunnels going under the Atash Behrams “will violate their spiritual sanctity of the Atash Behrams”. s“It will also pose a threat to the structural safety of the Atash Behram”, a heritage property constructed over a century ago, stated the petition, filed through lawyer Zerick Dastur and argued by senior counsel Shyam Mehta.
The MMRC counsel told the court that two of the high priests had met the CM, before work on the Metro corridor had began. The counsel maintained that they were told that the MMRC will take care of the structures. The petitioners told court that they were not given any assurance that the temples would not be affected.
Questioning why the trustees of the two Atash Behrams had not appeared in the court, Justice Kathawalla said: “Trustees should come to the court, what are they doing… If the trustees can’t take a stand then they should resign.” The court said that it is “shameful” that the trustees are not present in court. “They should be here when the matter is so important.” The petitioners told the court that of the five high priests, only two have given consent for the construction on the Metro 3 alignment to proceed. The court said, “How can two high priests decide for five? High priests should speak in one voice.” That court asked MMRC, high priests and the trustees to file their reply by June 14.