WHILE THE Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) is preparing to construct the Metro 3 to connect Cuffe Parade with Aarey, it is also bracing itself to fight various court cases filed by activists and residents across the city.
Before the MMRC goes ahead with the construction of the underground metro, it has to face two major cases in the Bombay High Court. Pervin Jehangir, a senior citizen from Cuffe Parade, has filed a writ petition on the grounds that the MMRC has not followed the due procedure mandated by the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978 in land acquisition.
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The petitioner argued that the metro construction will be in violation of the government’s CRZ notification of 2011, the corporation did not get the requisite environmental clearances prior to beginning the project, and that a false declaration was given to the tree authority by the MMRC.
“In December 2016, the MMRC declared to the tree authority that there was no litigation on the land where they propose to chop trees. But this case has been in the High Court since October 2016, making MMRC’s declaration false,” claimed Robin Jaisinghani, the lawyer for Jehangir.
The other case pertains to the massive tree felling for the 33.5-km line. Concerned by the huge loss of tree cover in the city, senior citizen Nina Verma filed a writ petition asking the court to look into the matter. In the last hearing on February 9, the HC ordered a stay on all tree cutting until orders and asked for a committee to be set up to look into ways to save as many trees as possible.
Another matter pertaining to tree felling filed by NGO Vanashakti and members of the Aarey Conservation Group in January 2015 is being heard by the National Green Tribunal. The NGT also has put a stay on all metro activities in Aarey exempting work only in a three-hectare area on the condition that it would not be of permanent nature and will be conducted only after due permissions from statutory bodies. Also, if the court is to rule against them, they will vacate the area without claiming any equity. In its last hearing, the forest department could not present the requested forest records of 1997 and sought the court for more time. The matter has been posted for March 15.
Meanwhile, a Marol resident and trustee of NGO Watchdog Foundation, Nicholas Almeida, filed a criminal complaint against Ashwini Bhide, MD, MMRC and SN Subrahmanyan, Deputy MD, L&T Ltd. alleging they were carrying on with the metro construction after 10 pm, creating public nuisance and noise pollution. Following the complaint, residents said, the noise levels had come down. The contractors will soon provide soundproof windows to the nearby residents. The next hearing is on February 21 at the Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Andheri.
While MMRC plans to complete 20 per cent of its civil work by the end of 2017, the various stay orders and time limitations have slowed it down considerably. “In most areas, we have either completed the piling work or are in process. Because of the stay order on cutting trees, we are not able to begin work on any new front. This is resulting in a loss of Rs 4 crore per day,” said R Ramana, Executive Director (Planning), MMRC.
After Aarey got caught in court issues, the Package 7 contractor walked out of the project and the MMRC claims that the appointment of a new contractor led to a further escalation of the project cost by Rs 10 crore. While MMRC is confident of coming out victorious in all the legal battles, they say that in the possibility of losing them, the city will end up losing the metro.
“The project is approved by both the Centre and the state. We have got all the permissions and are being financed by an international body. So there shouldn’t be any trouble. There are no alternative car sheds or methods we can adopt. If we lose the court cases, the city will lose the metro,” added Ramana.