Aarey shed for Metro-3 stays off track in Mumbai
The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday refused to lift the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) stay to allow the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to restart the construction of Metro-3 car shed at Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon.
In June 2015, environment groups Vanashakti and Aarey Conservation Group (ACG) filed a petition with NGT’s western bench in Pune, seeking protection for the area as a forest and demanding the car shed be shifted. On May 14, Delhi NGT upheld an August 2015 order by Pune NGT that called for a stay on construction and restrained the MMRCL from carrying out any debris dumping, reclamation of land and cutting of trees in the area allotted (30 hectares) for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro car shed until further orders.
Last week, MMRCL filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, seeking interim relief from the NGT order. Denying relief, the SC bench comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Indu Malhotra disposed of the matter and transferred it back to NGT in Delhi.
MMRCL said they approached the court as Metro work was getting delayed because of the stay. “The matter has been transferred to the principal bench of NGT for expeditious hearing,” said an MMRCL spokesperson. “In view of the fact that the western bench of NGT is not sitting, the SC directed the matter be transferred to the principal bench and needs to be heard at the earliest,” said advocate Kiran Bhagalia, counsel for MMRCL. “Our main plea highlighted that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is not allowing tree felling activity at Aarey owing to the stay, which is in turn delaying the car shed construction. With no hearing on the application, we are suffering.”
Zaman Ali, counsel for applicants Vanashakti and ACG, said MMRCL has filed a miscellaneous application before NGT too. “Two proceedings are underway for the same appeal. We told the SC bench that they [MMRCL] are trying to use two remedies for a single order, with an application already pending in the NGT. Thus, the bench passed an order stating that by consent let the papers of the entire case be transferred from the western bench of the NGT in Pune to the principal bench in Delhi at the earliest,” he said. “Once it was understood the matter would be transferred back to Delhi NGT, there were no arguments.”
Meanwhile, a document acquired through a right to information (RTI) query filed by Vanashakti showed MMRCL on May 31 got permission from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to establish and operate the Metro car shed for five years. HT has a copy of the document.
“We have been telling NGT that MMRCL didn’t have permissions when the work started in 2016. They obtained the mandatory permissions after they started work on the ground illegally, in brazen defiance of the court orders,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti. “MMRCL is using every trick possible to bleed us of our scarce resources. They have the liberty of spending massive amounts of public money to justify or cover their illegal activities.”
2017-18: HURDLES IN THE WAY OF METRO-3 CAR SHED AT AAREY
January 9, 2017: Environmentalists allege the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) has not taken permission from the state pollution board for Metro-3 construction.
May 22, 2017: National Green Tribunal (NGT) issues a notice to MMRCL, asking it to produce construction permits for building a lay stabling car shed for Metro-3 inside Aarey Milk Colony.
June-August 2017: NGT hearing continues, but work begins on the three-hectare casting yard at Aarey. MMRCL gets permission from attorney general for work at Aarey.
September-November 2017: Work starts on a 30-hectare plot; environmentalists allege no permissions were taken from any authorities. Subsequently, the NGT bench is declared non-functional and the application is transferred to Delhi. The matter is listed for hearing on May 3. Just before the hearing, MMRCL moves an application opposing the transfer of the matter to Delhi, citing the Pune bench would be functional in July and demand the matter be heard in Pune. The bench refuses to let the matter go back to Pune.
May 1, 2018: MMRCL submits its affidavit in reply to the application. It insists there was no stay, but the judge refuses to entertain the contention and reaffirms there is a status quo which must be complied with.
May 3: MMRCL says they were not served a copy of the affidavit from applicants, which leads to the NGT bench directing the applicants to file proof of service and serve the application copy to all respondents. Relief is denied, and the matter is kept for hearing on May 14.
May 14: The principal bench of NGT Delhi upholds an interim order passed by NGT western bench, Pune, from August 19, 2015, that said status quo restrained any construction activity, debris dumping or tree felling inside Aarey Colony.
June 14: MMRCL moves an urgent application before NGT Delhi, asking the environmental body to lift the stay order, but NGT rejects the application and keeps the matter for hearing in July, as originally decided.
July 11: NGT western bench refuses to lift its status quo order, as MMRCL was seeking directions to be issued to tree authority to allow cutting of trees by lifting the stay.
August: MMRCL files an appeal in the Supreme Court, seeking interim relief through a special leave petition on the NGT order that issues a stay highlighting the Metro project was getting delayed.
August 6: The SC bench comprising Justice Rohinton Nariman and Justice Indu Malhotra disposes the matter transferring it back to NGT Delhi, the principal bench, highlighting that the NGT stay order continues.
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