Mumbai: Greens lose, Metro wins

Mumbai: Even after advising the authorities not to cut so many trees that future generations do not know what a tree is, the Bombay High Court on Friday allowed the axing of over 2600 trees at suburban Aarey Colony.

The court has upheld the assessment of the Tree Authority, which had permitted cutting down of trees to pave the way for a Metro III car shed.

A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dangre also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on a Shiv Sena corporator for misleading the court on the issue.

The bench was hearing two petitions filed by Zoru Bhathena and Yeshwant Jadhav – and activist and a corporator, respectively. Both had challenged the Tree Authority assessment that allowed the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) to axe the trees at Aarey.

The Tree Authority also refused to accept the recommendation not to cut any tall tree on the construction site.

Bhathena and Jadhav argued that the due procedure was thrown out of the window by the Tree Authority, which consisted of sitting corporators and experts, while giving permission to chop down the trees.

They also argued that the authorities did not consider all the objections and the recommendations of the public and experts.

Having considered their contentions, CJ Nandrajog noted, "We cannot speculate as to what could be the reason which led to three experts taking the opposite view.

But the fact is that on the said issue the three experts opined that the trees could be transplanted ultimately and that the trees on Aarey land could be felled."

"The fact that the proposal was scaled down with reference to the number of trees to be felled (55 trees were saved from being axed) is itself proof of the decision making process being fair, transparent and based on reason," CJ Nandrajog held.

The judges further concluded that the views of the experts, which were in writing, were duly considered by the Tree Authority and for good and valid reasons, these were in part accepted and in part rejected.

On the email sent by an expert who claimed that she never recommended cutting of trees at Aarey, the judges blamed the "outcry" on social media for her resignation.

"The e-mail sent by the expert has intrinsic evidence of the probable outcome of the outcry in the social media by tree lovers. She has written that as lover of nature she could never recommend the felling of trees itself. This shows that she was driven into writing the e-mail…’’ the judge noted.

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