Legalcops – Legal Blog – Business Registrations & Tax Compliances

Hi there,

MMRCL To Seek Felling Of Trees

FACTS

  • On April 15, 2019, this Court rejected the interim remedy requested in IA No. 33819 of 2019 while deliberating on Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 31178 of 2018.
  • The following reliefs were requested in the application for interim relief: “a) stopping all activities being carried out by Respondent No. 4 on the land in question inside Aarey Colony; b) ordering the Respondents to carry out the activities for establishing Metro Car depot at the alternative sites referred to in paragraph 3 of the present application; and c) delaying the application of the observations made at page 92 of the impugned order to the effective date. d) Any additional orders that this Honorable Court may find appropriate given the facts and circumstances of the case
  • After that, on October 7, 2019, this Court, while hearing a Suo Moto Writ Petition 1, issued an order that was recorded as the Solicitor General’s declaration that no further trees would be cut down until the next date of listing.
  • This Court ordered that all associated writ petitions and Special Leave Petitions could be scheduled for ultimate disposition on August 5, 2022. In light of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited2’s argument that no additional trees have been chopped since the order of 7 October 2019 and none should be till the next date of hearing, no specific interim directives were imposed.

LEGAL ISSUE

Is the tree authority free to impose acceptable restrictions to make an appropriate decision about the MMRCL’s application?

 

ARGUMENTS ON BEHALF OF MMRCL

Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India, spoke on behalf of the MMRCL. He noted that 95% of the work had been completed and said that only 84 trees needed to be taken down. “The project’s initial overall cost was 23,000 crores. 22,000 crores have already been invested by us. The cost has escalated to 37,000 crores as a result of the litigation’s delay. The reduction in carbon emissions will have a significant effect. Vehicle traffic would essentially cease on the metro track. I’m asking for 84 trees. The majority of the work has been completed. If the entire project were to be abandoned due to 84 trees, the public would be seriously prejudiced. Nobody would benefit in any way. In terms of the trees, they will either be moved or new trees will be planted “SG Mehta offered.

The SG stated that the problem was related to a citizen’s legitimate expectation to travel comfortably while highlighting the fact that at least 9 people die every day as a result of train overcrowding. He added that the alternative site option at Kanjurmarg was no longer realistic in light of the millions of rupees in investments already made.

In response to submissions on behalf of the MMRCL, attorney Rukmini Bobde challenged the claim that the Aarey area is “forest” territory. She called the bench’s attention to the Bombay High Court’s decision, which declined to rule that the area was not a forest. Additionally, the National Green Tribunal rejected claims made in connection with the area.

She further emphasized how the Sanjay Gandhi National Park had been designated an eco-sensitive zone, but the Ministry of Environment and Forest had left this area out. The region surrounding the Aarey milk colony cannot be described as a forest because it has a film city, apartment buildings, and slums.

 

ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION

 Senior Attorney Chander Uday Singh claimed that Rs 23,000 crores was the investment for the entire project and not just for the vehicle shed when speaking on behalf of campaigners opposed to tree cutting. Concerning the vehicle shed, he claimed that due to the Supreme Court’s directives, no construction has been done except for a pillar.

“The total cost of this project, which consists of 10 metro lines, is 23,000 crores, of which line 3 is one. Due to market reasons unrelated to the auto shed, this amount has increased to 30000 crores “Singh stated. Additionally, he referred to committee findings that recommended Kanjurmarg as a more acceptable location in terms of technical viability, capacity to accommodate passenger needs, influence on the environment, and cost of land acquisition.

The work at Aarey shed would continue as soon as the new administration, led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, assumed office on June 30, according to Singh. He claimed that just the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister made the decision, not the entire cabinet. The decision to move the project to Kanjurmarg was previously made, and it was based on the recommendations of an expert group. The new administration, however, overturned the decision without taking into account any pertinent factors.

Singh claimed that the region is home to various “endangered species” and is a “pristine forest.” The current work has only been done over the brief period from July 21 to August 5, when the Supreme Court said it would hear the case.

Anita Shenoy, a senior attorney, argued that the region is covered in trees and qualifies as a forest under the description provided by the Supreme Court in the TN Godavarman case. She continued by saying that the tree transplantation effort was a total disaster. “In transplanted trees, death rates are 67%. This turnaround is risky “.

Additionally, she noted the cases mentioned in (2003) 5 SCC 437 and (2021) 4 SCC 309.

 

OBSERVATION OF COURT

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) was permitted to pursue its plea before the Tree Authority seeking permission to fell 84 trees after the Supreme Court changed its status quo order on the cutting of trees at Aarey region in Mumbai for the metro car shed project.

According to the Court, the tree authority would be free to decide how to handle the MMRCL’s case by applying appropriate conditions. The Maharashtra government changed its earlier decision to relocate the auto shed to Kanjurmarg, and the court noted that the new decision was based on pertinent factors, and that “it would be impossible for this Court to stay the decision at the interim stage.”

A court made up of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha observed that, on the surface, the Bombay High Court appears to support the decision to cut down the trees and to locate the metro vehicle shed in Aarey. The bench further observed that the Supreme Court had already rejected granting the project interim relief.

“The Court cannot ignore the substantial disruptions caused if the public investment that goes into the project is ignored in such initiatives requiring large outlays of public money. Without a doubt, environmental issues are significant because sustainable development is a must for all development “The bench took note of the order.

The bench noted that the State Government took into account several things before deciding that the initial decision to permit the metro vehicle depot for Metro line 3 at Aarey should be reinstated, including the letter submitted by the Central Government and expert committee findings.

It also mentioned that a sizable number of trees (2144) had already been cut down, leaving only the ramp’s trees to be removed.

Based on a written petition made by a few law students opposing the cutting of the trees for the construction of a metro car shed, the Supreme Court launched a suo motu case titled “In Re Felling Of Trees In Aarey Forest (Maharashtra)” in 2019. Environmental activists and city residents protested in large numbers when the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) and other officials decided to cut down the trees in Aarey.

Special leave applications submitted in opposition to the Bombay High Court’s decision not to interfere with the project are related to the suo motu case.

After Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued on behalf of the State of Maharashtra that no additional trees will be chopped on October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court issued an order maintaining the status quo about tree cutting.

 

RATIO DECIDENDI

 The Supreme Court declined to reverse the Maharashtra Government’s decision to permit the Metro Car Shed in Aarey, allowing MMRCL to seek tree removal.

 

CONCLUSION

The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) was permitted to pursue its plea before the Tree Authority seeking permission to fell 84 trees after the Supreme Court changed its status quo order on the cutting of trees at Aarey region in Mumbai for the metro car shed project.

 

Written by M.Sahithi, GITAM SCHOOL OF LAW

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *