Photo by BL SONI
Photo by BL SONI

Mumbai: In a ‘temporary’ relief for South Mumbai residents, Bombay High Court on Wednesday clarified that it will not allow Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) to carry out tunnelling work for its controversial Metro III line, during the night hours in the Cuffe Parade area. The HC said work during night hours would ‘prima facie’ violate the fundamental right of citizens to live in a pollution-free environment.

A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla, further clarified that this temporary ‘stay’, will operate till August 2, when the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) may submit its report on ambient noise levels in South Mumbai. Justice Oka, who may dictate a formal order on Wednesday said, “Prima facie, we propose to continue the previous order passed by this court in December last year, prohibiting MMRCL from carrying out any work during the night hours.”

“We are prima facie of the view that work during the night hours would violate the fundamental right of citizens to live in a pollution-free environment,” Justice Oka observed, adding, “However, we will have to strike a balance between fundamental rights and projects of larger public interest, after perusing MPCB reports.”

The bench expressed this opinion, which it proposes to pen down in their order on Wednesday, in response to submissions of advocate Sharmila Deshmukh, appearing for MPCB informed the bench that there is a staff crunch in the board and thus it has roped in an independent organisation to record ambient noise levels. Deshmukh informed the bench that MPCB has appointed National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), to record the ambient noise levels of the South Mumbai region. She further stated that the report would be submitted by August 2.

During the course of the hearing, the bench dismissed the argument of the Maharashtra government and the MMRCL, which claimed that Noise Pollution Rules 2000 (prohibiting construction work during the night hours) do not apply on them for constructing Metro III. “Prima facie, we propose to hold that Noise Pollution Rules 2000 apply on government and MMRCL for constructing the Metro III,” Justice Oka said.

Meanwhile, advocate Robin Jaisinghani, the petitioner, who dragged MMRCL and government to the HC, through his plea sought Rs 10 lakh as compensation as his family has spent ‘sleepless nights’ due to the noise emanating from the Metro III construction site near his building. Jaisinghani informed the bench that even though there is a stay on working during the night hours, MMRCL is defying it by carrying out construction work and causing noise pollution.

To this, Justice Oka said, “The contractor and the concerned authority cannot carry on with work in this manner, especially when we are spending so much time to find out a solution to the issue.” The bench is seized with pleas filed by MMRCL and Larsen and Tourbo (L&T), the contractor tasked to construct the Metro III line, seeking permission to work during the night hours. They have sought this permission to work in the South Mumbai region for 18 months.

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