Updated: December 18, 2019 4:01:29 am
Staying a Bombay High Court order, the Supreme Court Tuesday allowed the resumption of work on the Mumbai coastal road project but barred any associated development without further directions.
A bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, stayed the High Court’s order of July 16 quashing the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance granted for the southern part of the Rs 12,000-crore project.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai challenging the High Court order. The bench said it will take up the matter for final hearing in April next year.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi said the CRZ notification would apply only to roads and not highways. Though the initial proposal was to include both, the road portion was deleted from the notification, he said, adding there was thus a distinction between the two.
The bench said: “We are of the prima facie view that the notification does not apply… we will see.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, also appearing for the petitioner, said the project’s road segment was 19 km and that so far only about 1 km had been completed. He said heavy machinery brought in for construction was lying unused at the site and urged the court to allow resumption of work subject to the final outcome of the hearing.
Rohatgi said the project was not a straight road but had a zig-zag design and added that portions of land at the curved portions have been earmarked exclusively for green projects like gardens, etc.
Opposing the plea, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves contended that the road being developed on reclaimed land blocks tidal waters. Also, he said, the concrete being poured into the sea destroys coral structures along the shoreline.
Opposing this, the petitioner’s counsel said there was miniscule presence of corals near the shoreline. Senior Counsel C U Singh said granting the stay would in effect amount to the court clearing the project without hearing the matter in detail.
Gonsalves said the road was planned to decongest traffic along the route from South to North Mumbai and added that the Mumbai Metro, which was also coming up along the same route, can compensate and serve the same purpose.
The CJI asked him if he was sure that the same people who use the Metro also use the roads.
Gonsalves replied: “When Metro rail comes, a large number of people will shift to it.” He reiterated that the “Metro was planned to compensate for the road”. But Justice Gavai remarked: “That’s getting into government policy.”
Quashing the CRZ clearance after hearing a clutch of petitions, the Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar had underlined “a serious lacuna in the decision-making process” and “lack of proper scientific study”.
The High Court had said that the Corporation cannot proceed with the work without obtaining environmental clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification.
The project had been given the go-ahead in 2017 by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). It was envisaged to connect South Mumbai’s Marine Drive area to Kandivali in North Mumbai.
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