The Supreme Court on Thursday disposed of the special leave petition filed by a Mumbai resident against the lifting of a stay on tree cutting for the Metro III project (Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ) by the Bombay high court.
The court directed the petitioner to approach a two-member HC committee with their grievances.
On May 5, the high court had vacated its stay on cutting trees for Metro-III construction observing that a balance needs to be struck between developmental activities and preserving the environment. Churchgate resident and petitioner Nina Verma had sought a special leave petition in the Supreme Court on May 8, challenging the HC order.
A lawyer practising in the high court, on condition of anonymity, said in such a circumstance, where the Apex Court disposes of an order with special directives, the previous orders of any court stands. “By this logic, the tree cutting stay has been vacated and trees can be felled,” he said.
Officials from the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), however, claimed the Supreme Court upheld the HC order of vacating a stay on felling of trees for 27 metro stations for the Metro III project in the city.
“The Supreme Court has confirmed the HC order and refused any relief on the stay vacated on affected trees, stating that the HC order was well reasoned,” said a spokesperson from MMRCL.
On March 3 this year, the Bombay HC bench had ordered the formation of a committee comprising of two judges of the court nominated by the chief justice. The member secretary of the Maharashtra Legal Services Authority and deputy registrar were directed to oversee replantation and transplantation of trees affected by the Metro III project and report to the committee.
“We give liberty to the petitioner to approach the committee of two honourable judges to be nominated by the chief justice for redressal of their grievances,” read the order by the SC bench of Justice L Nageshwara Rao and Justice Navin Sinha, on Thursday.
A total of 2,811 trees will be affected during the project in Mumbai, of which 1,727 will be transplanted and 1,074 will be axed. An additional 2,000 plus trees are expected to be felled at Aarey. However, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has not sought permission for the same from the civic body’s garden department yet.
Meanwhile, the petitioner in the matter said that there was still a chance to save the trees from being felled. “I am happy that the SC has allowed us to approach the HC committee and we still have a chance to save as many trees as possible,” said Verma adding that she will be reaching out to the HC committee on Friday.
Khar resident Zoru Bathena, supporting the petitioner, said the stay on tree felling still stands. “If even a single tree is felled without consulting the HC committee, it would be a contempt of SC orders. We will be knocking the doors of the SC and HC, if trees are felled,” he said.