In a major disappointment to green activists, the Bombay High Court rejected on Saturday an urgent plea seeking a stay on felling of trees at Aarey Colony for the construction of a Metro Line 3 rake depot.
The plea was moved by activists after felling of trees began at Aarey on Friday evening, just after a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati H Dangre dismissed a petition challenging the decision of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Tree Authority to allow felling of 2,185 trees, and transplantation of 461 others on a 33-hectare land stretch.
On Saturday afternoon, activist Zoru Bhathena’s lawyers moved an urgent precipe in chambers of specially constituted bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and A K Menon, requesting that no trees should be cut till the parties move the Supreme Court. The bench, however, said, “Once all the substantive proceedings are dismissed, it would not be proper to pass any restraint order and merely on a praecipe.”
Advocate Sonal, appearing for the petitioners, told the high court that after the judgment was pronounced and the petition was dismissed, the bench (of Chief Justice Nandrajog and Justice Dangre) expected the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) not to go ahead and cut trees. “That expectation is belied by the ground level situation, and today the position is that from the evening of 4th October, 2019, uptill now, the tree cutting is in progress at the site,” Sonal told the bench. Sonal requested that the order be stayed till October 14, as Supreme Court is closed until then for Dussehra vacation.
Advocate Akshay Shinde, appearing for MMRCL, told the bench that the bench had made the request orally after the order was pronounced and it has been rejected. Shinde argued that it is not proper to refer to any oral understanding in the court, for that is neither reflected in the judgment and order, nor is it in the record. He added that in these circumstances, the court should not grant any relief.
Shinde said that bearing in mind the huge investment, any delay in the project, would cause the overriding public interest to suffer.
In the four-page order, the bench said, “There is nothing on record to show that any request was made to stay the operation, implementation and enforcement of the judgment and order, nor any specific restraint was sought. We cannot proceed on any oral understanding.”
It added, “Merely because another bench is constituted, it would not be proper to grant any relief. The nature of the relief is such that if it is granted, that would directly contravene the observations, findings and conclusions in the detailed judgment.”