The Bombay high court on Monday dismissed a petition raising concerns over the razing of 33 hectares of Aarey Colony’s green cover — situated in a no development zone (NDZ) — to construct a Metro car shed.
The division bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice Girish Kulkarni fined the petitioner, Zoru Bathena, Rs 50,000, observing that “he intended to make the petition a platform to seek information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.”
The 41-year-old activist had asked the high court to direct the urban development department to give him information about the proposal to revise the city’s development plan (DP). He stated that the proposal includes a plan to razing part of Aarey Colony to construct a car shed for the Metro 3 line, which runs between SEEPZ, Andheri and Colaba.
He had also sought information as to why the car shed could not be constructed at an alternative site at Kanjurmarg. He sought an interim order preventing the department from proceeding with the proposed modification to the DP. He stated that according to a notice published on January 4, objections and suggestions can be made to the DP.
Bathena’s counsel said that he applied for information under the RTI Act and found out that more than 5,000 trees would be cut to construct the car shed. However, he was provided with incomplete data and thus could not file any objections to the DP, though he intended to do so. She added that the hearing on objections and suggestions to the DP would become a mere formality if the public was not given complete information about the proposed modification.
However, the judges were unimpressed. They noted that the RTI Act has provisions enabling people to appeal if they do not receive complete information.
“The petitioner apparently wanted to cut short the procedure prescribed by the RTI Act,” said the bench. It asked him to deposit the fine with the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority within two weeks.